A well-researched biography sensitive to Queen Victoria as a woman.

VICTORIA

THE QUEEN: AN INTIMATE BIOGRAPHY OF THE WOMAN WHO RULED AN EMPIRE

Australian journalist and historian Baird (Media Tarts: Female Politicians and the Press, 2004) draws on previously unpublished sources to fashion a lively, perceptive portrait of the long-reigning queen.

Victoria (1819-1901), writes the author, was an adoring wife, overbearing mother, and “a clever and forceful political calculator.” Characterizing her subject as “the most famous working mother in the world,” Baird focuses intently on love, sex, and family: Victoria’s marriage to Albert and protracted mourning after he died; her attitudes toward childbearing and mothering her extensive brood; her postpartum depressions; her adoration of the “blunt, bearded Scotsman” John Brown; and her relationships with many men in her government. Although there are few surprises for readers familiar with previous biographies by A.N. Wilson, Christopher Hibbert, Matthew Dennison, and Carrolly Erickson, to name a few, Baird shrewdly assesses the quality of the queen’s family life and creates sharply drawn portraits of the major players in her circle. The queen “budded in the presence of a man who charmed her, who confided in her and sought her approval,” such as her first prime minister, Lord Melbourne, with whom she had “one of the great platonic romances of modern history,” and the sympathetic, witty Benjamin Disraeli. As for her marriage, Baird sees both Victoria and Albert as stubborn and strong-willed. “Albert was aiming for greatness,” the author observes, and was happy when his wife was pregnant so he could take a role in governing. He believed women were inferior to men, and Victoria conceded, “Albert’s talents were superior.” As far as motherhood, Baird reveals that Victoria hated being pregnant, feared that she would die in childbirth, was sometimes “doting,” but also described her children “bluntly and often harshly” and clearly had her favorites. On the political landscape, Victoria witnessed the devastating Crimean War, uprisings across Europe, famine in Ireland, and domestic social pressures. She sought to transcend a “primarily ceremonial and symbolic” role to one of power and influence.

A well-researched biography sensitive to Queen Victoria as a woman.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6988-0

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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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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