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

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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...


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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