Donne would be pleased with this intelligent, affectionate, articulate telling of his story.

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JOHN DONNE

THE REFORMED SOUL

A major biography of the poet and preacher, who knew Shakespeare, accommodated himself to three difficult monarchs and left behind a significant literary legacy.

In his impressive debut, Stubbs moves with ease through the complex life of a man who lived in a time of profound religious, political and cultural upheaval. Because John Donne (1572–1631) was such a public person for much of his life—a poet, a bureaucrat, the Dean of St. Paul’s—and because a number of his regular correspondents kept his letters, his biographer has much documentary evidence to support this account. Born into a Catholic family, Donne learned to adapt his views and behavior to the prevailing political and religious mood. He also, Stubbs ably demonstrates, retained his humanity and moral integrity. He left home early for Oxford but received no degree because he could not sign the religious Oath of Allegiance. (Later, James I made certain that Cambridge awarded Donne a doctorate.) He lived and studied law at Lincoln’s Inn, sailed with Essex and Ralegh, earned a powerful position as secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, spent some time in the House of Commons. But he nearly lost it all in 1601 when he secretly married teenaged Ann More, enraging her family and annoying Queen Elizabeth. Ann subsequently gave birth to a dozen children and died shortly after delivering a stillbirth in August 1617. (Stubbs is not always so specific about dates; a chronology would have improved the book.) By then, Donne had turned his back on the secular world. Noted as a bachelor for his popular satires and sexy poems, he was chastened by poverty and the struggle to support his family; some powerful friends and James’s royal caprices persuaded him to take religious vows early in 1615. He became one of England’s most influential preachers—in his lifetime and beyond.

Donne would be pleased with this intelligent, affectionate, articulate telling of his story.

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-393-06260-1

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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