An unfocused account that is intermittently moving but terribly unbalanced.

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UPHILL WALKERS

A MEMOIR OF A FAMILY

A disjointed memoir of an Irish-American childhood in rural Massachusetts during the 1950s and ’60s.

In the first half of her narrative, newcomer Blais offers recollections of her father (a successful physician who died of cancer when she was five) and recounts anecdotes from her experiences at a Catholic school. Her mother, Maureen, was reluctant to remarry or work outside the home after her husband’s death, so she raised her six children on the proceeds of her husband’s life insurance policy and the charity of relatives. They didn’t starve, but they had to resign themselves to eating “cheaper tuna” and a dessert they called “dogfood.” As the eldest sister, the author was also the cruelest—shamelessly given to tormenting her sister Jacqueline (she defaced her diary, mocked her for being homesick at summer camp, and forced her to study the catechism in the dark). Blais feared only her eldest brother Raymond, a temperamental high-school dropout. After Raymond was mysteriously discharged from the Air Force, he began to show signs of mental illness and he was dependent on psychiatric drugs for the remainder of his life. His daily battles with his affliction soon come to dominate the narrative, and the author’s other three siblings remain more or less faceless by comparison. There are other characters of importance in this story (the author’s husband, for one), but they are all more or less overlooked as the narrative jumps through decades and bypasses significant events.

An unfocused account that is intermittently moving but terribly unbalanced.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-87113-792-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

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...

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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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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