Fascinating and useful, but exceedingly recherché.



A microscopic look at the staid Victorian biographer and pupil of Thomas Carlyle, by novelist and 19th-century scholar Markus (Across an Untried Sea, 2000, etc.).

Drawing on reams of material regarding the long life of J.A. Froude (1818–94), the author fails to extract its essence for the general reader. As a young man, Froude was a Tractarian, a member of the Oxford Movement, founded by his brother Hurrell and John Henry Newman, which sought to purge Protestant elements from the Church of England. But he grew disillusioned as the movement’s leaders were subsumed into Roman Catholicism. In 1849 Froude wrote The Nemesis of Faith, a scandalous novel about a clergyman who doubts his calling; its publication cost him his Oxford fellowship. Excoriated ceaselessly by his father, a Devonshire archdeacon who believed he was profligate and professionally useless, Froude embarked on a literary career. He edited the influential review Fraser’s and forged a name as the distinguished biographer of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Benjamin Disraeli and, most importantly, Scottish historian, essayist and “seer” Thomas Carlyle. Falling under the spell of Carlyle and his fierce, intelligent, long-suffering wife, Jane, changed the course of Froude’s life. Carlyle convinced Froude that biography was “the only history”; he also, after Jane’s sudden death in 1866, confided to his friend that their 40-year marriage had been sexless. When Carlyle himself died in 1881, Froude honored a promise and published both Thomas’s frank Reminiscence of his wife and Jane’s unexpurgated letters. These blunt portraits of a difficult marriage brought Froude condemnation within the literary world. Undaunted, he went on to write several magisterial volumes on Carlyle’s life and to travel the globe as an unofficial diplomat; he was even reinstated at Oxford in the last years of his life. Markus’s depictions of the harsh treatment young Froude received from his sadistic family and of his sticky relationship with the Carlyles are most interesting, but her text grows cumbersome and disorganized under the weight of so much research material.

Fascinating and useful, but exceedingly recherché.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-4555-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2005

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


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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