Thompson has fallen under the spell of the breathtakingly beautiful (as she repeatedly insists), seductive Diana, but...

THE SIX

THE LIVES OF THE MITFORD SISTERS

A fresh look at six outrageous sisters.

There has been no lack of attention to the notorious Mitford sisters, including biographies of Unity Valkyrie Mitford, who, scandalously, adored Hitler; Diana, who married the outspoken fascist Sir Oswald Mosley; and writer Nancy, the subject of Life in a Cold Climate (2003) by Somerset Maugham Award winner Thompson herself (A Different Class of Murder: The Story of Lord Lucan, 2014, etc.). Added to those are family memoirs, collections of letters, and a previous group biography, Mary S. Lovell’s The Mitford Girls (2001). Yet for readers yearning for another take on the glamorous sisters’ “posh past,” Thompson’s smart, jaunty, and wittily entertaining book will amply fill their desire. Steeped in Mitford lore and mythmaking, the book offers sharply drawn portraits of each woman, teases out the complexities of their fraught, competitive relationships with one another, and sets their lives within the context of a radically changing world. “These girls are prize exhibits in a Museum of Englishness,” admits the author, but she shows how they were much more. Born between 1904 and 1920, the sisters grew up imbibing the etiquette of debutante balls and the personal consequences of global upheaval; their friends were the fey Bright Young Things, “sublimely clever aesthetes”; their enemies were legion. “Snobbery, shallowness, stupidity, adultery, unpalatability—the Mitfords were accused of all these things and rode out every criticism,” Thompson writes admiringly. They fervently believed they were exceptional, even Jessica, who rebelled vehemently against the family’s politics. Unity never married, and others chose startlingly unsuitable mates: Diana left her adoring, hugely wealthy, but unfortunately dull husband for the rake Mosley; and Pamela married opinionated, philandering bores; Jessica ran off with a communist, with whom she lived in poverty. Deborah, though, made a more suitable match, with an eminent duke who owned assorted castles.

Thompson has fallen under the spell of the breathtakingly beautiful (as she repeatedly insists), seductive Diana, but otherwise, her cleareyed view of the sisters’ strengths and foibles makes this gossipy story a delight.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-09953-2

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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 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

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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

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