A celebratory and entertaining royal biography.



Early-life biography of the queen, who “in one sense…is the twentieth century.”

As CNN’s British royalty expert Williams (Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte, 2014, etc.) acknowledges, Queen Elizabeth II has not lacked biographers. While breaking no new ground, the author’s lively, gossipy narrative offers a sympathetic portrait of a young woman whose path to the throne resulted from two unexpected events: the abdication of her uncle, Edward VIII, which made her father King George VI; and her father’s early death, which elevated 25-year-old Elizabeth to queen of England. As princesses, Elizabeth and her younger sister, Margaret, grew up sheltered, doted upon, and happily carefree. Their parents saw education as irrelevant for girls who were destined to do nothing more than marry well. Their governess was charged with tutoring them for an hour and a half per day. When Elizabeth was 10, however, her prospects changed. As royal watchers well know, Edward VIII, much preferring a glittery social whirl to the tedium of kingship, claimed that he could not rule without the support of the woman he loved, the twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. Like the royal family, Williams characterizes Edward and Wallis as spoiled, selfish, and irresponsible. Edward’s threat to abdicate was, Williams writes, “a bluffing game.” But the cabinet would not concede, he was forced to abdicate, and his brother was forced into a position for which he felt ill-prepared. As royal heiress, Elizabeth’s education somewhat intensified: she was sent to Eton twice a week to learn constitutional history. Socially, though, she remained sheltered (she did not leave her nursery bedroom until she turned 18), which Williams believes explains her intense romantic crush, at the age of 13, on debonair Prince Philip of Greece; they married when she turned 21. The author sees Elizabeth as exemplary: although “not born for the role,” she has fulfilled it “with grace and dignity.”

A celebratory and entertaining royal biography.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60598-891-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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