It may be hard to write anything new about Winston Churchill, but it is even harder to write anything dull about him, as Pearson (The Selling Of the Royal Family, 1986; The Serpent and the Stag, 1984, etc.) proves again here. Pearson's inquiry into Churchill's private life began with his interest in the tragic deaths of three of Churchill's four children: Diana, who killed herself, and Randolph and Sarah, whose drunken escapades became notorious. Mary, the wife of successful Tory politician Christopher Soames, was the only one of Churchill's children to lead a balanced, normal life. Why? Pearson has found some obvious answers, and some more unexpected. It is well known that Churchill's father, Lord Randolph, gave little attention to his son, whom he thought stupid, leaving Winston with an enduring need to prove himself. It is less well known that, as Pearson reveals, Churchill's wife, Clementine, was probably the daughter of one of her mother's lovers, perhaps even, by an irony, a man who was also a lover of Churchill's mother. Churchill's desire to provide a more loving family environment was negated by his ambitions and way of life, and by Clementine, whose energy and interest in her children were never very great. As a result, the children alternated between outrageous pampering, little discipline, and outright neglect. The love affair between Winston and Clementine, often portrayed as idyllic, appears to have been something less than that, with Clementine often overwhelmed by her husband's galvanic energies, deep depressions, boisterous friends, and reckless spending. The explanation for all this may be found more in the conventions of the Victorian era and in the selfishness of a man of towering ambition than in the ``cunning and ruthlessness of the egomaniacal genius'' depicted in the publisher's blurb, but Pearson offers solid insight into one of the most remarkable public men of the century. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 1991

ISBN: 0-671-63153-5

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1991

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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 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...


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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