A layered, nuanced work demonstrating the mingling of “the cataclysmic with the routine.”


Universal responses to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln—black and white, North and South, incredulous, gleeful or vengeful—make for grim yet engrossing reading.

With meticulous scholarship, Hodes (History/New York Univ.; The Sea Captain's Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century, 2006, etc.) presents a plethora of people’s intimate reactions to the assassination of Lincoln on April 14, 1865—Good Friday, just days after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox. The country was reeling from the blood bath of the Civil War, and with 2 percent of the population mowed down, death had touched nearly every American household, North and South. The news of the first assassination of an American president—a beloved one who was looked on as a father to the torn, suffering nation—sent shock waves through the country in the spring of 1865. People scribbled their grief into diaries and letters, and Hodes uses the reactions of three protagonists as a “template for broader investigations”: a couple of white abolitionists from Salem, Massachusetts, who were horrified and stricken by the assassination; and a Jacksonville, Florida, lawyer, Rodney Dorman, whose relish in the murder of the president allowed him to vent his anger and disgust at Union occupation and black emancipation. Lincoln’s death galvanized emotions about the war and fears for the future of the nation, especially for African-Americans, who wondered whether their freedom would now be jeopardized. Was the assassination a vast Confederate plot to seize power? Yet Lincoln had been lenient toward the vanquished Southerners, and newly acceded President Andrew Johnson was notoriously ill-disposed toward the rich Southern planters. From reactions by Mary Todd Lincoln to the fiery racist Copperheads, Hodes shows the uneven responses of a nation certainly not “united in grief.”

A layered, nuanced work demonstrating the mingling of “the cataclysmic with the routine.”

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-300-19580-4

Page Count: 408

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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