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A lively rendering of a work long out of print in English. Just the thing for anyone who has to survive in a political world.

Long misjudged by history, Empress Catherine (1762–96) gets a word in for herself.

This new translation of Catherine’s memoirs does much to make her seem a contemporary, or at least not quite so removed from our time. A product of the Enlightenment, Catherine fended off her adolescent loneliness by reading: the classics in their original languages, works in the modern European languages, complex books thought to be above the heads of women. The reason for the 15-year-old’s loneliness? Her husband, scarcely older, who was a bit of a dimwit and more than a bit of a child; when she first meets Peter III of Russia, to whom the young German princess was married off in 1744, he is busily playing soldier with his household staff. Later he graduates to racing dogs in his rooms and beating the losers. “These were truly the games of a child and of perpetual childishness,” Catherine laments, scarcely becoming the future tsar. For her part, the young woman born Sophia Augusta Frederika of Anhalt-Zerbst had early on learned more regal ways: “I saw with pleasure,” she writes, “that from day to day I gained the affections of the public, who regarded me as an interesting child who was not without intelligence.” Certainly the Empress Elizabeth came to regard the young Grand Duchess this way, lamenting, by Catherine’s account, the fact that her protégée should be reading the works of Plato in Greek and brushing up on the masterpieces of Russian literature while her idiot husband was concocting schemes to build a palace in which everyone, the royals included, would dress up like Capuchin monks. No political memoir—and Catherine is a shrewdly political creature through and through—would be complete without its intrigue, and, as Peter discovers, that is surely the case here. As we leave off, Catherine is preparing to deliver a mighty comeuppance, but that’s the stuff of the history books.

A lively rendering of a work long out of print in English. Just the thing for anyone who has to survive in a political world.

Pub Date: July 12, 2005

ISBN: 0-679-64299-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Modern Library

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2005

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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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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