Recent elections in Britain and the United States have produced surprisingly dysfunctional governments. De Lisle’s fine,...

THE WHITE KING

CHARLES I, TRAITOR, MURDERER, MARTYR

Biography of an English king whose “life and reign add up to far more than the sum of his mistakes.”

Charles I (1600-1649) has always received bad press as the villain of “the triumph of virtuous, warty-faced politicians and soldiers over a king who is weak, stupid and backward looking…a mere speed bump on the high road to liberal democracy.” Reading this description on the first page, one may suspect that the author disagrees. Sure enough, veteran British historian de Lisle (Tudor: Passion. Manipulation. Murder. The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family, 2013) delivers a more generous portrait. Charles was the son of James I and mostly a chip off the old block: a High Church Anglican who believed in the divine right of kings and clerical authority, which guaranteed trouble with the austere, Protestant Calvinists who were gaining power. Charles ruled without Parliament from 1629 to 1640, but lack of money and war with Scotland forced his hand. Fiercely anti-Royalist, the legislature passed a torrent of laws limiting his authority and expanding its own while persecuting his advisers. Despite plenty of Royalist support, Charles lacked his opponents’ political acumen and ruthlessness, even after raising his standard in 1642. In 1647, after a bloody civil war, he found himself a prisoner of Parliament, the members of which wanted a negotiated settlement that might have happened if extremists under Oliver Cromwell hadn’t expelled that majority in 1649, leaving those willing to condemn the king. De Lisle’s parliamentarians are an irascible group, resembling not so much freedom fighters as the tea party; on the other hand, the author’s Charles often seems the voice of reason.

Recent elections in Britain and the United States have produced surprisingly dysfunctional governments. De Lisle’s fine, revisionist view of Charles may arouse nostalgia for a time when national leaders, elected or not, looked out for the nonzealous majority.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61039-560-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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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