Among the best of the many books about the notorious Mitfords: sympathetic but shrewd, warmly appreciative of Nancy’s...

LIFE IN A COLD CLIMATE

NANCY MITFORD: THE BIOGRAPHY

A life story nearly as witty and provocative as the English author’s delicious novels and own biographies.

British journalist Thompson (The Dogs, 1995) takes a refreshingly personal and opinionated approach to Nancy Mitford (1904–73), making a nice contrast with Selina Hastings’s serviceable but flat 1985 portrait. Thompson’s breezy but stylish prose perfectly suits her subject, a woman who loved clever people, fashionable clothes, and a good laugh. She expertly assesses the tangled emotional dynamics of the aristocratic but impoverished Mitfords, growing up in rural isolation as six charismatic girls and their brother were left to run wild by their eccentric parents. Nancy was the oldest, a “black-haired green-eyed changeling” given to rather nasty teasing of her beautiful blonde sisters, “restless and relentless in her search for laughter . . . the spark that set that family crackling with vitality.” She made a disastrous marriage and wrote four agreeable but slight novels before finding her literary voice—direct, simple, wildly funny yet cognizant of human frailty—in The Pursuit of Love, a 1945 comic masterpiece starring her flamboyant kin. The book was Nancy’s defiantly gay rejoinder to the grim war years; in her substantive but selective text, the author assumes readers know the basic facts about the three Nazi-sympathizing Mitford siblings (Unity, Tom, and Diana, wife of Oswald Mosley) and concentrates on their sister’s reaction to them. In 1946, Nancy moved to Paris, her home for the best years of her life, during which she enchanted readers with three further novels (notably Love in a Cold Climate) and four popular biographies (including Madame de Pompadour). Her enduring love for Gaullist politician Gaston Palewski was not matched by fidelity on his side, but Thompson’s astute analysis of their relationship does not scant the joy it gave her along with much sorrow. And Nancy would always strive to be cheerful, even when slowly dying in excruciating pain.

Among the best of the many books about the notorious Mitfords: sympathetic but shrewd, warmly appreciative of Nancy’s ability to snatch happiness from even the most tragic circumstances.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7472-4575-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Headline

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2004

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more