A thoroughly charming memoir of a childhood in Italy between the world wars. The English have always loved Italy, especially Tuscany. Nourished by romantic visions and illusions, they—ve flocked there to buy up large tracts of land and working farms. Aubrey Waterfield, the artist, was one of many such. He purchased La Fortezza della Brunella, an imposing 16th-century castle set on a hill, in 1916. With him he brought his wife, son John, and five-year-old daughter Carinthia (who became Kinta Beevor). Their Anglo-American coterie included only the very best of families and such luminaries as Bernard Berenson and D.H. Lawrence. The children were more fascinated, though, by their father’s fanciful “garden in the sky,” a splendid Eden perched on the castle’s roof. The castle—from its immense kitchen and sumptuous odors to the legend of a massacred garrison still haunting the place—became the focal point of life. By her own admission, Beevor’s childhood was formed more by her contact with the locals and an imperious aunt than with her mother. Humorous, witty, and insightful comments abound here on the cultural differences separating the English and the Italians: e.g., regarding personal relationships, the rearing of children, and the preparation and consumption of food. Speaking of her parents, the late Beevor (who died in 1995) writes, “They had all of the luxuries of life but none of the necessities . . . they seldom had money for those things that their relations considered the basis of civilized life.” Reflecting on the Italians, she observes (as have many others): “Fundamentally, the Italian wants to give pleasure.” And: “The Italians, unlike the Germans, were saved from the worst effects of ideology by their own cynicism about politics and the press,” though the author does detail the cruel barbarism of the Fascists and Nazis during WWII. The nostalgic, enchanting book closes on a note of infinite sadness in remembering a way of life now lost. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 8, 1999

ISBN: 0-375-40462-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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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 19, 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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