Nothing new or particularly compelling for Twain buffs, but an engaging account for the casual fan.

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LIGHTING OUT FOR THE TERRITORY

HOW SAMUEL CLEMENS BECAME MARK TWAIN

This latest addition to the overstuffed Twain library offers neither scholarly revelation nor literary insight, but instead provides a Civil War historian’s account of the author’s formative years during and after the war.

The editor of Military Heritage magazine and author of books on the Civil War and other topics from that era (The Long Pursuit: Abraham Lincoln’s Thirty-Year Struggle with Stephen Douglas for the Heart and Soul of America, 2008, etc.) might seem like an odd choice to tackle a subject who did his best to avoid that war. Yet Morris builds a solid case that it was the war that “ended Twain’s career as a riverboat pilot, occasioned his brief inglorious career as a Confederate guerilla, and (had) driven him westward across the continent.” The central theme of the book, stated more than once, is that “he had come west as Sam Clemens…He was returning east as Mark Twain—increasingly renowned journalist, lecturer, and short story writer.” The challenge for the author is that the period from 1861 to 1867 has, like the rest of Twain’s life, been exhaustively documented. Morris’s narrative relies heavily on the many books that have come before, including Twain’s autobiographical writings. Since Twain was never known to let the facts get in the way of a good yarn—even his journalism was marked by stretching the truth and outright invention—Morris attempts to set the record straight. He does a good job detailing the young man’s years in Nevada as a shareholder in ultimately worthless mines, San Francisco as a Wild West outpost and Hawaii, where Twain went surfing(!). For the reader willing to forgive the assessment that The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is “in some ways (his) best book,” the Twain who emerges here is more human, less legend.

Nothing new or particularly compelling for Twain buffs, but an engaging account for the casual fan.

Pub Date: April 13, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4165-9866-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2010

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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

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