A thoroughly researched biography, if a tad tendentious.

THE SWAMP FOX

HOW FRANCIS MARION SAVED THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

An admiring biography of Francis Marion (1732-1795), a military hero of the American Revolution.

As Oller (American Queen: The Rise and Fall of Kate Chase Sprague—Civil War "Belle of the North" and Gilded Age Woman of Scandal, 2013, etc.) notes, readers of a certain age will remember Marion, the “Swamp Fox,” as the subject of a Disney TV series that ran from 1959 to 1961, and he also reminds us that the 2000 Mel Gibson film, The Patriot, was based loosely on Marion’s exploits. The author’s strategy is conventional and chronological. He acknowledges the difficulty of separating fact from legend in Marion’s case, but the author is resolute. He teaches us about Marion’s family (he did not marry until after the war) and the determination of the British to employ a Southern strategy as the war progressed. A slaveholder in South Carolina, he became a militia leader and quickly established himself as a slippery foe, one who, the author declares, borrowed from the guerrilla tactics of the Cherokee, whom he’d fought earlier. Oller takes us through each of the two dozen or so of Marion’s engagements, virtually all of which were successful; sometimes the detail is daunting, but the maps help clarify matters. Oller shows us a man who was a stickler for discipline but who also refused to allow his men to plunder and commit other overly punitive acts. We meet, as well, his military supporters and antagonists—Nathanael Greene among the former, Thomas Sumter among the latter. Oller is generous in his praise for Marion—his efforts did thwart the Southern strategy—but he seems a bit uncomfortable discussing the Swamp Fox as a slave owner. Although the author periodically alludes to slavery, he does not discuss it in much detail until the final pages, where he states it’s “safe to assume [Marion] was not a cruel master.”

A thoroughly researched biography, if a tad tendentious.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-306-82457-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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