A sturdy but overgrown narrative in need of substantial pruning.

MY FATHER’S SECRET WAR

A MEMOIR

A reporter for the New York Times, emotionally estranged from her father for most of her adult life, reconciles with him as she gradually, then obsessively, uncovers the story of his covert military activities during World War II.

Franks, author of the novel Wild Apples (1991), begins with a childhood memory—wiping out on her bicycle, then lying bloody in her father’s sheltering arms. But, as she quickly notes, there was little intimacy between them thereafter. She was angry with him for his ill treatment of her mother (who died in 1976), which included a long affair with a woman named Pat; for his slovenliness later on (she describes having to clean out his apartment); for his emotional coldness; for his refusal to talk about anything of consequence. But while cleaning up after him one day, she discovers in a box of items from the war some Nazi memorabilia. Thus begins the journey presented here, one filled with discoveries—about her father’s role as a spy (and assassin) in both theaters of the war, about her parents’ love (and its dissolution), about religion, about the author’s roles as sister, wife, mother. As she gradually begins to coax her father to talk about his past, complications arise: He exhibits signs of dementia, then is diagnosed with terminal cancer. But before he dies, she has come, through her understanding of him, to love him once again. There are tears and lumps in her throat. At the moment of his death, she sees a disturbance in the air around his bed, decides it’s God and practices thereafter a religious life that she abandoned long before. Much of her story deals with her research and with her discoveries, including a packet of love letters her father wrote to her mother during the war. She quotes long—often too-long—passages from them. She also reminds us throughout that she won a Pulitzer in 1971.

A sturdy but overgrown narrative in need of substantial pruning.

Pub Date: March 14, 2007

ISBN: 1-4013-5226-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2007

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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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