A lively account, filled with the vivid details of daily and family life that make the best memoirs evocative portraits of...

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THINGS THAT MUST NOT BE FORGOTTEN

A CHILDHOOD IN WARTIME CHINA

Luminous recollections of a lost world, from an Anglo-Chinese writer who recounts how his privileged and sheltered childhood turned into a dangerous adolescence in war-torn China.

Born in 1934, Kwan was the youngest son of a Swiss woman who married into a Chinese family that traced its lineage back to the Han dynasty. The author’s Cambridge-educated father was administrator of China’s national railways system, and Kwan draws on his progenitor’s writings as well as his own memories in his memoir. Early childhood was idyllic: a warm-hearted nanny took care of him in a house in Beijing filled with beautiful objects, cared for by numerous servants, and the site of elegant parties. When his mother, who mostly ignored him, ran off with another man, Kwan left Beijing to live with a lively Anglo-Chinese family, the Findlay-Wus. As he adjusted to the new household, Japan invaded and occupied large parts of China, sparing only the areas where Europeans lived. After Kwan’s father married Mrs. Findlay-Wu’s sister, Kwan moved back to Beijing and started school, but the war increasingly intruded—especially after Pearl Harbor, when Kwan watched as the Japanese took away his American and British school friends with their parents. Kwan describes the family’s move to Quingdao, lonely school days during which he was reviled for being a half-caste (the Europeans and Chinese were equally racist), the civil war that broke out as Japan was defeated, the arrest of his father (now an intelligence officer), and the family’s ensuing privations. As the Communists gained control, an older stepbrother arranged for Kwan to leave China and go to school in Hong Kong. He would not return until 1987. Permitting himself the latitude usually granted to chroniclers of childhood, the author recalls numerous seemingly verbatim conversations, but these enrich an always absorbing narrative.

A lively account, filled with the vivid details of daily and family life that make the best memoirs evocative portraits of their peoples and their times.

Pub Date: May 10, 2001

ISBN: 1-56947-248-3

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Soho

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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