Prodigious research enlivens a vigorous reappraisal of the writer’s life.

THE SINNER AND THE SAINT

DOSTOEVSKY AND THE GENTLEMAN MURDERER WHO INSPIRED A MASTERPIECE

A 19th-century true-crime/literary tale in which two lives become enmeshed in evil.

Award-winning literary historian Birmingham elaborates on the trials and travails of Dostoevsky (1821-1881) by interweaving his life with that of notorious French outlaw Pierre Francois Lacenaire (1803-1836), a figure whose “base instincts” fascinated Dostoevsky. Lacenaire, who studied law and wrote poetry, detailed his many grisly crimes—including the murders of a gay man and his mother—in a scandalous memoir. Widely celebrated as a romantic iconoclast, Lacenaire came to represent “the radical artist undermining bourgeois society” and fueled Dostoevsky’s imagination as he wrote Crime and Punishment, with a protagonist whose motivation to kill was a mystery “even to himself.” Dostoevsky set himself the challenge of grappling with the nature of evil by telling “a murderer’s story from the murderer’s perspective.” The trajectory of Dostoevsky’s life is by now familiar: He burst onto the literary scene in 1845 with the publication of Poor Folk, but within a few years, his critical reputation waned and he was drawn into the left-leaning Petrashevsky Circle. Arrested when the czar clamped down on political protest, he was imprisoned for eight months, faced a firing squad, and was pardoned at the last minute and sent into exile in Siberia. There, he sought out stories of his fellow convicts, including murderers; he was transfixed by their renderings of their crimes. Bedeviled by epileptic seizures, a gambling addiction, and overwhelming debt, he made an “ill-fated marriage,” suffered a doomed love affair, and found himself, at the age of 43, owing 15,000 rubles—some incurred when he took on his late brother’s debts, most because of his gambling losses. Drawing on his addiction for The Gambler, he exposed the irrationality and “fantasy of the power of daring” involved in roulette. Birmingham conveys in vibrant detail Dostoevsky’s literary aspirations, struggles to publish, and tumultuous world of “angels and demons.”

Prodigious research enlivens a vigorous reappraisal of the writer’s life.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-59420-630-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A Trump idolator’s dream book. Everyone else should stay far away.

THE CHIEF'S CHIEF

Donald Trump’s former chief of staff serves up servile homage to a man he’s sure will make a comeback bid in 2024.

No president could ask for a more fawning yes man than Meadows. Trump is a genius, a savior, the author avers in this cliché-stuffed, formulaic celebration. He’s a bulwark against what Trump calls “the Radical Left Democrat Communist Party.” That speech he gave at Mount Rushmore, if anyone remembers it? “One of the finest in American history.” Of course, Trump, God’s personal pick, didn’t really lose the 2020 election. When things go wrong, it’s always someone else’s fault. For example, Trump appointed Kavanaugh and Gorsuch to the Supreme Court only for them to rule “in ways that were deeply disappointing to the MAGA movement that had made their appointments possible.” Thanks to Pelosi and the Dems, the economy, formerly strong “due to the work of President Trump and his advisors,” tanked during the pandemic. Speaking of which, “had it not been for the China Virus, we could have spent the past months reaching more voters and running up our historic vote totals even higher”—not to mention battling Fauci, Milley, and countless other enemies. If there’s a conspiracy to be found or an enemy to be named, Meadows does so. Sometimes he falls off message, as when he writes of a typical campaign rally, “the energy of these patriots, all united for a common cause, celebrating their prosperity and patriotism in a shared space, is something you can’t describe until you’re in the middle of the crowd with them.” Prosperity or forgotten/downtrodden Americans: You can’t have it both ways. As for the Jan. 6 mob? All Meadows can muster is a pale “what occurred that day was shameful”—with the immediate deflection that a few bad apples spoiled a noble showing of support for their heroic leader.

A Trump idolator’s dream book. Everyone else should stay far away.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73747-852-2

Page Count: 308

Publisher: All Seasons Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An engaging childhood memoir and a deeply affectionate tribute to the author’s parents.

THIS TIME NEXT YEAR WE'LL BE LAUGHING

The bestselling author recalls her childhood and her family’s wartime experiences.

Readers of Winspear’s popular Maisie Dobbs mystery series appreciate the London investigator’s canny resourcefulness and underlying humanity as she solves her many cases. Yet Dobbs had to overcome plenty of hardships in her ascent from her working-class roots. Part of the appeal of Winspear’s Dobbs series are the descriptions of London and the English countryside, featuring vividly drawn particulars that feel like they were written with firsthand knowledge of that era. In her first book of nonfiction, the author sheds light on the inspiration for Dobbs and her stories as she reflects on her upbringing during the 1950s and ’60s. She focuses much attention on her parents’ lives and their struggles supporting a family, as they chose to live far removed from their London pasts. “My parents left the bombsites and memories of wartime London for an openness they found in the country and on the land,” writes Winspear. As she recounts, each of her parents often had to work multiple jobs, which inspired the author’s own initiative, a trait she would apply to the Dobbs character. Her parents recalled grueling wartime experiences as well as stories of the severe battlefield injuries that left her grandfather shell-shocked. “My mother’s history,” she writes, “became my history—probably because I was young when she began telling me….Looking back, her stories—of war, of abuse at the hands of the people to whom she and her sisters had been billeted when evacuated from London, of seeing the dead following a bombing—were probably too graphic for a child. But I liked listening to them.” Winspear also draws distinctive portraits of postwar England, altogether different from the U.S., where she has since settled, and her unsettling struggles within the rigid British class system.

An engaging childhood memoir and a deeply affectionate tribute to the author’s parents.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64129-269-6

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more