Richly researched and deeply complex—at times sufficient to bemuse as much as inform.



A biographer delivers the scholarly yet very human story of some talented women who held surprising sway in the incredible clutter of city-states that composed Renaissance Italy.

Noting that Italy comprised some 250 individual states, Frieda (Catherine de Medici, 2005) focuses on three powerful families—Sforza, Este, Gonzaga—though others rise and fall throughout her tale, as well, principally the Borgias and the Medici. The stories (and families) are interconnected and extremely complex—witness the 10 pages of family trees preceding the text. (Assiduous readers will want to keep a finger among those pages.) The author follows the fortunes of such women as Caterina Sforza, her husband brutally murdered and mutilated, who flashed traitors in a crowd. Frieda also shows us the vilely corrupt papacy of the time. Greed, violence, sexual depravity, incompetence—all flourished. Throughout, the author wields a sharp rhetorical razor, too. Of Duchess Bona, she writes: “it would have been hard to find a stupider woman,” and Angela Borgia was a “brainless beauty.” Frieda does some restoration on the reputations of the Borgias, particularly Lucrezia, calling much of what had circulated at the time (and later) “a heap of fantastical stories and lies.” Among the most compelling of her accounts: the papacy of Rodrigo Borgia (Alexander VI) and the quest for power that consumed his son Cesare, who became a Spanish prisoner. Frieda also follows the international politics and military maneuvers of Italy, especially the incursions of France. Shifting alliances, deceptions and lies, the struggle for wealth and power—all are revealed in the stories of women who held (or manipulated) the reins of power when men were incompetent or away battling one another.

Richly researched and deeply complex—at times sufficient to bemuse as much as inform.

Pub Date: April 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-0061563089

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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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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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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