Tragedy as well as triumph in this meticulous, fascinating tale of three generations of Churchills.

CHURCHILL & SON

Churchill as family man.

In addition to being the subject of countless biographies, Churchill published hundreds of articles and more than 40 books of his own. In this detailed, engaging narrative, Ireland demonstrates that there is more to be learned about one of the most written-about political figures in history. Exploring the statesman’s relationship with his son, Randolph, the author begins with Churchill’s own famously unhappy childhood, chronicling his parents’ “almost comically detached method of care.” Churchill overcompensated for his father’s neglect by spoiling his son, a poorly behaved boy who became a profligate student and undisciplined adult. For all his gifts and achievements, Randolph led a chaotic life. In one two-week period in 1939, anxious for an heir lest he be killed in the war, he proposed to eight different women, all of whom turned him down. The ninth, Pamela Digby, accepted, and a year later, she became mother to his son, also named Winston. Shortly after, she was forced to rent out their home and take a job to pay down his gambling debts. On the positive side, Randolph was a gifted extempore speaker, effective journalist, and influential counselor to his father—and, later, his biographer. While recounting their relationship, Ireland draws unforgettable sketches of life in the Churchill circle, much like Erik Larson did in The Splendid and the Vile. For example, the family home at Chartwell required nearly 20 servants, as celebrities, politicians, and other “extraordinary people” came and went on a daily basis. Throughout, Ireland is generous with the bijou details: Churchill hated whistling and banned it. When dining alone, he would sometimes have a place set for his cat. His valet would select his clothes, “even pulling on his socks.” After retiring to Pratt’s club after Parliament ended its evening session, he would sometimes “take over the grill and cook the food himself.”

Tragedy as well as triumph in this meticulous, fascinating tale of three generations of Churchills.

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4445-8

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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