A stunning portrait, intriguing with unanswerable questions. (Photos throughout)

The colorful, engrossing story of Helle Nice—exotic dancer, race-car driver, accused Nazi collaborator—told with considerable élan by biographer Seymour (Mary Shelley, 2001, etc.).

Daughter of a French provincial postmaster, Nice (1900–84) gained a certain notoriety as a nude dancer in Paris during the period after WWI (“nakedness, at the upper end of the market which they aimed to please, was softly lit and always in the best of taste”). But once she passed her driving test, it was cars she communed with. When a ski injury ended her career as a dancer, she was more than happy to take up life behind the wheel, with the support of her innumerable lovers. Seymour depicts a dangerous life: Nice arrived at her first Grand Prix after “a mixture of morphine, champagne, and sex had left her wanting to crawl into a coal hole.” She won anyway. Generally considered one of the two finest female racing drivers in Europe between the wars, Nice had to prove her worth time and again, on terrifying dirt tracks that claimed life after life and on claustrophobic speed bowls. She was one of the very few women who dared to race against men. Seymour adeptly paints Nice’s decline and fall. In 1936, she suffered a horrible accident in Brazil; a photo shows her cartwheeling from her auto in the midst of a high-speed crash. Later that same year, she was investigated for smuggling cars. Then, most damning, in 1949 Nice was publicly denounced by a fellow driver as a former Gestapo agent. Seymour thinks not: “ . . . her collaboration, if she was guilty of it, might only have taken the pragmatic form of being on good terms with the occupiers. She liked enjoying herself.” The accuser withdrew his allegation, but Nice’s career was over; she died penniless and forgotten.

A stunning portrait, intriguing with unanswerable questions. (Photos throughout)

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2004

ISBN: 1-4000-6168-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2004


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



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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