A charming, well-researched journey to “Austen-land.”

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JANE AUSTEN AT HOME

A BIOGRAPHY

A fresh, spirited look at the beloved author by a self-proclaimed “Janeite.”

British historian Worsley (Maid of the King’s Court, 2017, etc.), chief curator of Historic Royal Palaces, is steeped in the world of Georgian England, where Jane Austen (1775-1817) lived, wrote, and set her novels. In a biography as brightly entertaining as it is erudite, the author offers a richly detailed portrait of Austen, her various homes, and her social context. In what she admits is a “crowded field” of Austen biographies and critical studies, Worsley takes a wry, sometimes-irreverent perspective, grounded in a deep knowledge of Austen’s fiction; letters to, by, and about her; and seemingly every bit of scholarship, criticism, and biographical inquiry relevant to her. Although her sources are abundant, there are still gaps, and Worsley occasionally resorts to “would have,” “might have,” and “it is easy to imagine” as she narrates Austen’s life. Nevertheless, she is so reliable a historian that her speculations seem well-founded. She reads Austen’s correspondence with uncommon empathy, discovering “dense detail of domestic life” in letters that some biographers have dismissed. Investigating Austen’s possible suitors, Worsley cautions against treating her subject “like just another modern person, reacting to the situations in exactly the same way as the writer would him or herself.” An 18th-century woman might have far different feelings about romance, she argues; Austen, she believes, had a series of suitors, one of whom proposed marriage. Austen accepted him only to change her mind the next day. Her writing career had a slow start, but Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, garnered “terrific sales” and strong reviews, becoming “a wild, noteworthy, enviable success” that buoyed Austen’s confidence and made her a celebrity among her neighbors. Worsley gives sharply drawn pictures of domesticity in the many homes that Austen inhabited, including her family’s rented houses in Bath and residences where she, her widowed mother, and sister visited as guests before they settled in Chawton, a site of pilgrimage for Janeites.

A charming, well-researched journey to “Austen-land.”

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-13160-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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