U.S. District Court Judge (Massachusetts) Gertner spent 25 years as a civil-rights and criminal-defense lawyer before being confirmed in 1994. Her thoroughly engaging, outspoken memoir about those years might be considered a bold move for a seated judge who should maintain an image of neutrality, but not a surprising one if you consider the values that have defined her career.

The author’s story is that of “breaking into and succeeding in the quintessential man’s world…told by one of many women who desperately tried to put her fancy legal skills at the service of society’s most maligned members.” She writes this memoir to preserve her pre-judge identity as an advocate, as well as to remind the next generation of women, particularly those rejecting feminism, of the choices she and her contemporaries fought hard to maintain. Gertner narrates her personal experiences—of a humble upbringing in Queens, attending Barnard and Yale, building a law practice, earning the respect of her opponents and balancing her job with a family (she has three children with husband John Reinstein, ACLU Legal Director)—alongside stories of the landmark cases she worked on. Defending anti–Vietnam War activist Susan Saxe from accusations of robbery and murder catapulted Gertner onto the legal stage at the beginning of her career. Rape, abortion, malpractice, murder, sexual harassment, extortion and academic discrimination trials followed, cementing her formidable reputation as one of Boston’s best lawyers. While the author can be a little too obvious about the pride she takes in her impressive persona (“I suppose you have to be somewhat driven to characterize teaching at Harvard as time off”), the narrative is well-paced. Lofty musings on the justice system’s ability to access “the truth” and the role of litigation in shifting social standards will be cited in law-school classes, while amusing anecdotes will resonate with general readers. Fits Gertner’s description of herself: “funny, irreverent, dramatic, prepared.”


Pub Date: April 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8070-1143-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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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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