An insightful peek into a time long gone, told with skill, humor and wit.

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SERVANTS' HALL

A REAL LIFE UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS ROMANCE

The no-nonsense follow-up to Below Stairs: A Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir that Inspired Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey (2012).

In this latest book, which was originally published in Britain more than 30 years ago, the author explores the ramifications of what was then considered a shocking event in the class-bound culture of early-20th-century Britain. Rose, the fetching under-parlourmaid to the wealthy Wardham family, did the unthinkable, eloping with Gerald, the family’s only son. Powell deftly explores the reactions of the family—Gerald’s father refused to see the couple ever—as well as those of the servants below the stairs, who seemed as disconcerted as the family. Though Powell and another young servant were delighted with the change in status the romance afforded Rose, she understood the hazards as well. “She couldn’t see that she’d never really be one of them; she’d never be able to keep up the conversation at dinner for she never read, not even novels, and knew absolutely nothing about politics or the arts,” she writes. Throughout the narrative, Powell offers insights illuminating the life and times for house servants following World War I, including the strict hierarchy among those who spent their lives working for wealthy families. She also looks at the sexual mores of the times, the incredible meals created by armies of servants toiling in the basements of the big houses and her own ideas regarding her own marriage. “I was determined to marry and achieve an equal partnership,” she writes. “Although I would probably still have little money, I intended to have, in my marriage, as much freedom as the male had always had by inalienable right.”

An insightful peek into a time long gone, told with skill, humor and wit.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-02929-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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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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