A memoir filled with pleasing passages in every chapter.



A memoir of unexpected love with a Frenchman.

While living in London as a staff writer for the New Yorker, Collins fell in love with Olivier, who grew up in a beach town near Bordeaux. He spoke English fairly well, but the author spoke no French. In her cleverly organized, well-written story, Collins explores how language differences can be overcome with difficulty but can also threaten romance due to poor communication. Raised in North Carolina, Collins chose London as her overseas locale partly because she lacked confidence about developing a work life and a private life in a foreign language. Due to her sudden interest in Olivier, the author had to find the resolve and the skill to learn French beyond the tourist basics. As the memoir unfolds, Collins does not spare herself, sharing her apprehensions and her missteps with candor and frequently with humor. She also shares her misunderstandings and arguments with Olivier as they labored to reach a comfortable place in a bilingual romance. Collins was also painfully aware of differences other than language. She was a writer, he a mathematician; she was a believer in organized religion, he an atheist. She also acknowledged that her romantic history featured poor judgment in men, even when language and culture presented no obvious barriers. As Collins gradually decided to commit to learning French because Olivier seemed worth the effort, she breaks from the personal narrative to share scholarly knowledge with lay readers—e.g., why is the world divided by so many languages and dialects? How did French develop specifically? What are the sometimes-surprising differences between English, especially American English, and French, regarding sentence structure, gender identification of specific words, and linguistic purity? Throughout, the author ably weaves together the personal and the historical.

A memoir filled with pleasing passages in every chapter.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59420-644-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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 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...


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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