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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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