A thin slice of the upper-upper-crust.




The daughter of the eighth Marquess of Londonderry chronicles her aristocratic life in a low-key, chatty memoir chock-full of famous names.

Born in 1934, Annabel grew up in resplendent wealth amid various grand country houses in Scotland and Ireland. Her grandmother was a great political hostess, linked to the royal family, and at the Queen’s coronation in 1953 her older sister was one of the six chosen maids of honor. Annabel’s “coming out” was overshadowed by the ghastly death from mouth cancer of her adored mother, a commoner who had married her father for love. At age 19, Annabel quietly married Mark Birley, a member of her set and son of portrait painter Oswald Birley. A gambler and business mind, Mark started up several notable London society night spots, including Harry’s Bar and Annabel’s, one of the swinging ’60s most famous clubs, located in the basement of 44 Berkeley Square. There, the flesh-and-blood Annabel met French-English businessman Jimmy Goldsmith, who marketed pharmaceutical products, was friendly with Margaret Thatcher, and forged the reactionary Referendum Party. Jimmy had a family in France and a mistress in New York, but that didn’t impede him and Annabel from marrying and having three children together. (“If you marry your mistress,” Goldsmith once wisecracked, “you create a vacancy.”) Although Jimmy often lived elsewhere, leaving Annabel and the children at their Ormeley house near Richmond Park, they vacationed together in exotic spots, an arrangement that seems to have suited his pampered and undemanding wife. Her memoir is full of dogs and children, specific about names and places—Princess Diana was a friend, so were Claus and Sunny von Bülow; Armand Hammer once made a pass at her—but emotionally spotty.

A thin slice of the upper-upper-crust.

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-297-82966-1

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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