Properly accentuates this much-maligned queen’s achievements, but not always convincing when trying to explain away her...

THE FIRST QUEEN OF ENGLAND

THE MYTH OF “BLOODY MARY”

Brisk, learned reassessment of Mary Tudor, whose short reign featured beheadings and burnings, but also political and social reforms for which she has never received proper credit.

A former university lecturer, Porter debuts with a difficult assignment: painting a gentler expression on the grim visage traditionally given to “Bloody Mary.” The author pinpoints several factors in what she sees as a historical injustice. The first is Acts and Monuments, John Foxe’s graphic, wildly popular account of Protestant martyrs’ sufferings during Mary’s attempts to restore England to Roman Catholicism. Centuries of male Protestant historians have tended to follow the general line of Foxe’s book, in print ever since it was first published in 1563. It didn’t help Mary’s reputation that her turbulent years as queen (1553–58) were immediately followed by half-sister Elizabeth’s much longer and admittedly more glorious reign. Porter champions her subject with sturdy determination and fixed focus. She revisits Henry VIII’s long marriage to Katherine of Aragon, Mary’s mother, and the failure to produce a male heir that prompted Katherine’s repudiation and Henry’s break with Rome. She deals with the short reign of Mary’s half-brother Edward VI and examines the mercurial relationship between Mary and Elizabeth. She explores the political marriage between Mary and Philip II of Spain, who did his marital duties but eagerly escaped to the continent whenever he could to avoid his older and not very alluring wife. Porter argues that the queen did not want to restore medieval Catholicism, even though the burnings at the stake of Thomas Cranmer and nearly 300 others suggest the contrary. The author credits Mary for encouraging the arts, insisting on better education for the clergy, initiating some fiscal reforms and being true to the religion whose verities she never questioned.

Properly accentuates this much-maligned queen’s achievements, but not always convincing when trying to explain away her failures.

Pub Date: July 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36837-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2008

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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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