The intimacy established in Indira’s early years is washed away by snippets of journalism toward the end, leaving this...

INDIRA

THE LIFE OF INDIRA NEHRU GANDHI

The tale of modern India’s mightiest matriarch and most controversial Prime Minister.

As Frank (A Passage to Egypt, 1994) notes, Indira Nehru Gandhi, daughter of independent India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was strongly influenced by family friend Mahatma Gandhi (no relation). Drawing on a variety of sources—including Jawaharlal’s memoirs and interviews with those who knew Indira—the author reveals how Indira’s professional and emotional relationships often intertwined, especially in regard to the men in her life: her influential father, her quarrelsome husband, and her two sons—Rajiv and hot-blooded Sanjay. The first half of the narrative provides some intimate details of Indira’s unconventional childhood in her paternal grandfather’s Westernized home: The only child of Kamala and Jawaharlal, Indira was nicknamed “Indu-boy” and (like her patrician father) educated abroad. Despite her privileged upbringing, Indira’s early life was far from happy. She anguished over Kamala’s chronic maladies and endured long separations from Jawaharlal, who was imprisoned several times for his participation in Gandhi’s civil-disobedience movement. After Kamala died, Indira defied her family by marrying Feroze Ghandhi (unrelated to Mahatma Ghandhi), who later humiliated her with his clashing politics and infidelities, until he died unexpectedly at the age of 48. Frank chronicles the triumphs and blunders of Indira’s career in a detached voice, but the scandals of her administration—including her Declaration of Emergency, in which she avoided resignation by censuring the media—provide a vivid portrait of the turbulence of Indian politics. The author also suggests that, at certain times during Indira’s leadership, the unscrupulous Sanjay was calling the shots. Although both sons blamed the strains of politics for their father’s death, Rajiv eventually followed in her footsteps, succeeding her after her assassination in 1984.

The intimacy established in Indira’s early years is washed away by snippets of journalism toward the end, leaving this account somewhat unbalanced. Still, this is a rewarding study for Westerners curious about the Nehru dynasty and independent India’s tumultuous political history.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-395-73097-X

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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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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