An accessible scholarly account of a man whose life spanned continents, whose charisma was legendary and whose ideas sparked...



Brilliant, charismatic, fatally idealistic and dogmatic—Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) was all this and more, according to this fine biography, the latest in the publisher's Jewish Lives series.

Rubenstein (Tangled Loyalties: The Life and Times of Ilya Ehrenburg, 1996, etc.) locates a key period in Trotsky’s intellectual development in his time spent as a child and adolescent in Odessa, where he lived with relations, acquired cultural awareness and social graces and, most importantly, gained insight into the hardships faced by the working classes. It was in Odessa that he first encountered a systematic, officially sanctioned anti-Semitism that barred him from admittance to select schools. Yet Trotsky’s self-awareness of his Jewish identity was ambivalent throughout his life and always took a backseat to his identity as a communist. Developing into a public voice for change, he was launched on to the international stage after an escape from Siberian exile (where he left his first wife and daughters) to Vienna, where he met Lenin for the first time. During this period, Trotsky traveled extensively throughout Europe, honing ideas and stirring his listeners. Through these experiences, he formulated his notion of a “permanent revolution” necessary to sweep through all of Europe, one of the pillars of his political theory that is, in hindsight, understood to be both deeply flawed and destructive. Afeter 1905, with the exception of a few years, he shuttled between Vienna, London, Finland, Paris, a brief stint in New York and Mexico, where Stalin’s long arm finally reached him. Trotsky proves to be a fascinating subject, a deeply flawed man whose charisma occasionally shines through the many excerpts of his speeches and texts. In the central chapter, “The Revolution of 1917,” Rubenstein not only details the chronological events that led to the Bolshevik party’s consolidation of power, he also presents these in the larger context of Russian and German war strategy. The author explores the battle of personalities between Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, as well as the gamesmanship of succession, with particular attention to Trotsky’s puzzling failure of political acumen in not recognizing or responding to Stalin’s threat to his role as Lenin’s successor.

An accessible scholarly account of a man whose life spanned continents, whose charisma was legendary and whose ideas sparked a revolution and its backlash.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-300-13724-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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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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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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