Napoleon’s recalcitrant, republican younger brother has his say in this lively reconstruction of the Bonaparte family’s accession to power.

Simonetta (The Montefeltro Conspiracy: A Renaissance Mystery Decoded, 2008) and Arikha (Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humours, 2007) acquired unpublished correspondence and notebooks belonging to Lucien Bonaparte and his wife, Alexandrine, that were spared the purge by Napoleon III’s revisionists. Much of their work here revisits Lucien’s Memoirs, with expurgated passages restored involving telling scenes between the brothers as well as details about Lucien’s relationship with Alexandrine, his lovely second wife who was vilified by Napoleon mostly because the First Consul wanted his brother to make an astute political match rather than marry for love. The authors “take [Lucien] at his word,” allowing the dialogue he recorded seemingly verbatim to remain intact and jump off the page—namely, when Napoleon informs his brothers Joseph and Lucien while reclining in the bathtub of his precipitous decision to sell the vast Louisiana territories to the Americans, the same territory Lucien had skillfully and very recently negotiated from the Spanish. Napoleon had often been away in military school during Lucien’s youth, and the relationship between them was respectful but never warm. Lucien had studied in seminary before becoming a political activist and speaker; he was deeply imbued with republican ideals and early on expressed his suspicions about his older brother’s despotic ambitions. If Napoleon were king, Lucien wrote to Joseph, “his name would be a terror to posterity and to sensitive patriots.” Nonetheless, Napoleon relied on Lucien’s diplomacy and cool-headedness to help stage his coup amid the Council of the Five Hundred in November 1799, and used him as a diplomatic tool until Lucien’s forced exile over his marriage to Alexandrine. A fresh piece of turbulent French history. 


Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-230-11156-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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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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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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