Entertaining and well researched, but less controversial than the publisher’s claims. Wheelan is only one of the recent...



Aaron Burr’s sensational 1807 treason trial makes for good history packed with scandal, courtroom fireworks, and great men behaving badly.

Historians wonder what drove the former vice president to self-destruct. Wheelan (Jefferson’s War, 2003) blames the hostile Chief Executive and makes a reasonable case. Thomas Jefferson picked Burr as running mate in 1800 because he needed to carry New York. A Revolutionary War hero and brilliant lawyer, Burr was a rising, ambitious politician. His positions on slavery and women’s rights were far ahead of his time. He delivered New York, but the election ended in a tie between Burr and Jefferson; in 1800, electors cast two votes but didn’t specify which was for president. The election was thrown into the House of Representatives, dominated by the losing Federalists, whom Burr hoped would prefer him to Jefferson. Yet Wheelan points out that Burr refused overtures from Federalists, while Jefferson made promises that gained their votes. Jefferson then set out to destroy his rival. He denied Burr’s supporters patronage, weakening the vice president’s power base, and chose another running mate in 1804. Trying to recoup, Burr ran for New York governor, but Jefferson worked to ensure his defeat. Popular histories claim Burr’s 1804 duel with Hamilton wrecked his career; Wheelan insists he was ruined before he killed Hamilton. Burr wrote the British government, offering to lead a revolt in the restive states beyond the Appalachians. Getting no response, he eventually organized an expedition that sailed down the Mississippi until Jefferson’s arrest order caught up with him. During the trial, Jefferson peppered the prosecution with advice, some of it illegal and all of it unethical. Unfortunately for Jefferson, Chief Justice John Marshall, a bitter enemy, presided. Marshall’s rulings favored Burr, who was acquitted.

Entertaining and well researched, but less controversial than the publisher’s claims. Wheelan is only one of the recent historians (e.g., Joyce Appleby and John Patrick Diggins) who have begun to separate Jefferson the immortal founding father from Jefferson the man, fiercely ambitious, convinced of his righteousness, and unforgiving of anyone he considered a threat.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2005

ISBN: 0-7867-1437-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2004

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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