A unique and intimate addition to the literature about the Holocaust.

THE BERLIN SHADOW

LIVING WITH THE GHOSTS OF THE KINDERTRANSPORT

In a tale embroidering two boyhoods, a father and son revive their relationship by reliving the elder’s traumatizing World War II experience.

Before the outbreak of the war, the Kindertransport relocated thousands of children, many orphaned and most of them Jewish, from Nazi-occupied nations to Great Britain. One such child was 12-year-old Hans Lichtenstein, depicted by his son—the author of this poignant memoir—as a mix of taciturn anger and mordant humor. What has Hans repressed, and how has the author absorbed his father’s trauma? Scenes of the author’s eccentric childhood in Wales serve as a sort of B-plot, interspersed with chapters showing an unusual father-son road trip: the undertaking, in reverse, of Hans’ forced exile, the train journey his father has been ever loath to discuss. Revelations start small, as Hans recalls images that befit the worldview of a 12-year-old. At Berlin’s Jewish Museum, Hans erupts with long-concealed details about the destruction of his own father’s shop during Kristallnacht. The dialogue can be gutting: Recalling children on that perilous train ride, Hans says, in typical laconic prose: “They wept. For the whole journey. Tremendous grief. I didn’t cry….My mother told me that I was going away for a holiday. And I’d believed her.” The author continues with the narration: “He stops. He cannot think the next thought. It cannot be thought by him. We sit in silence. There. Some of it’s been said. Words have been formed and have left him. They have passed through the air. He lifts his cup and stares at the coffee grounds. Silence. A thickening.” Because Lichtenstein is a playwright, his account is dotted with similar bits of dialogue, enlivening the weighty prose. As we wind backward through that ghoulish journey, we can feel the growing intimacy between father and son, acting as catharsis for not only the author, but also for readers.

A unique and intimate addition to the literature about the Holocaust.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-54101-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown Spark

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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PERIL

An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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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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