Much scholarly vigor, very little animating vim. (46 illustrations)



The childhood, youth, and education of Victoria, from cradle to coronation eve (1819–37).

Vallone (English/Texas A&M) has done her homework: she examined young Victoria’s journals, schoolwork, creative writing, sketches, and “Behaviour Books”—accounts of her conduct kept by her influential governess, Louise Lehzen; and she inspected the toys and prized possessions of the princess. She read (and here summarizes) the books that Victoria read—those assigned to her by family and tutors as well as those the princess read for her own edification and pleasure (including James Fenimore Cooper’s The Bravo and Fanny Kemble’s Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation). Vallone consulted books from the period dealing with child-rearing and the deportment of girls. She examined the many portraits of young Victoria, both for their accuracy and for their symbolic values. She explored the curriculum Victoria experienced—her studies of Latin, French, German, and Italian (her weakest language) and of history, literature, science, and mathematics. (Victoria, in Vallone’s view, was “an able student with an active mind.”) She explains Victoria’s interests in riding, theater-going, singing, and dancing and presents intimate aspects of Victoria’s life as well, describing her childhood willfulness, speculating about her menstrual cycle, and describing her initial encounters with her cousin Albert, who would become the love of her life. Emerging from all of this impressive research is a much more human and even humane Victoria than suggested by the later photographs of the dour, dumpy queen. The Victoria that Vallone reveals is a young woman with spirit—and a temper—with an education both unusual and conventional, and with a sympathy for the poor. By the time her uncle William IV died, Victoria was a competent and caring young woman ready for the role history had so improbably awarded her. Though her scholarship is impeccable, Vallone lacks any irony or humor and sometimes over-stuffs her copious parentheses; occasionally, she sacrifices freshness for familiarity (people tend to “pull punches” and “play a waiting game”).

Much scholarly vigor, very little animating vim. (46 illustrations)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-300-08950-3

Page Count: 245

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


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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