A welcome reevaluation of an underappreciated author.




British biographer Watson (The Crossing, 2001) paints a sympathetic and revealing portrait of Charles Lamb’s older sister Mary (1764–1847), one of the most important female writers of the Regency period.

John Lamb was a waiter at the Inner Temple, home of London’s elite barristers. Given educations suitable to their stations, his children lived comfortably until the death of their father’s patron forced a move to shabbier quarters, where the family became dependent on the children’s earnings. Mary, trained as a seamstress, had the added burden of caring for their sickly mother, whom she stabbed to death with a kitchen knife on September 22, 1796. Charles took the weapon from Mary’s hand and led her away to an insane asylum. Courts determined that she was not responsible for her actions and, after her illness abated, released her to Charles’s custody. For the rest of her life, Mary suffered periods of institutionalization when her illness (probably bipolar disorder) reached periodic crises. In between episodes, she and Charles carried on a curious existence, in which his earnings as a clerk at East India House supported a bohemian lifestyle in the company of some of the best-known writers and intellectuals of the era. Wordsworth and Coleridge were lifelong friends of the Lambs; Southey, De Quincey, Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt, and William Godwin regularly attended their Thursday evening affairs. Godwin published their masterpiece, Tales from Shakespeare, for which Mary did the bulk of the work. Watson keeps the focus on Mary, detailing her friendship with Sarah Stoddart, who married Hazlitt, and her correspondence with Dorothy Wordsworth and other literary women of the age. Sadly, Mary’s disease continued to plague her, taking as much as three months from every year. Her writing career ended in 1815, but Mary outlived her brother by more than a decade.

A welcome reevaluation of an underappreciated author.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-58542-356-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: TarcherPerigee

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2004

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet