ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE

A LIFE IN LETTERS

No major revelations or strong stylistic appeal, but an affecting self-portrait of a plainspoken, good-natured Englishman...

A triple-decker helping of hitherto unpublished letters, mostly to his mother, by the man who hated to be known as the creator of Sherlock Holmes.

Conan Doyle (1859–1930) led a life more varied and eventful than any of his fictional heroes. Trained as a physician, he struggled for years toward literary success before achieving it overnight in 1891 with the Strand’s publication of “A Scandal in Bohemia.” Apart from producing a great deal of other writing—humor, fantasy, science fiction and the historical novels he hoped would be his most enduring legacy—he married twice, stood twice for the Parliament, was knighted for his defense of England in the Boer War, lost several close relatives in World War I and publicly embraced spiritualism in the last decade of his life. No one, however, would consider him a great letter writer. Although the editors have trimmed numberless accounts of his health and finances, many more remain, along with sales figures for his books and details of his public lectures. Occasionally Doyle’s invincibly prosaic style is eloquent. More often, the letters glow with the deeply rooted good nature and good sense of Holmes’s amanuensis, Dr. Watson, whose personality, on the basis of the evidence here, owed a great deal to his creator’s. Doyle’s letters to his mother are always affectionate but never intimate. Yet she clearly offered him the ideal audience for his reflections—after she died in 1920, no correspondent took her place, and the editors gloss over his final years in a few pages.

No major revelations or strong stylistic appeal, but an affecting self-portrait of a plainspoken, good-natured Englishman whose type has passed into history.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-59420-135-6

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

NIGHT

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview