A well-told story for readers interested in Czechoslovakia, its creation, its fall to fascism and then communism, and rescue...

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THE LAST PALACE

EUROPE'S TURBULENT CENTURY IN FIVE LIVES AND ONE LEGENDARY HOUSE

The former ambassador to the Czech Republic tells the story of a historically significant palace in Prague.

The palace, which began construction in 1924, was the project of Otto Petschek (1882-1934), a wealthy financier who left it behind when he went to study law. His family was the leading banking family in Prague, and they helped it become the 10th largest postwar economy. Not just a biography of Petschek and his mansion, Eisen’s tale is also a history of Czechoslovakia, beginning with its birth in October 1918, and his family. President Woodrow Wilson, enjoying an academic friendship with Czech leader Tomas Masaryk, supported the Czech people and their closely related Slovak neighbors’ bid for self-determination. The palace that Otto imagined in 1924 was designed by German architect Max Spielmann, and the estate became Otto’s obsession as he ordered it to be built, redesigned, torn down, and rebuilt. His mania was such that he bought full-grown trees and an entire room—walls and all—to be shipped on flatbed train cars. But he died before World War II, and his family escaped the Nazis to London. The house suffered from Nazi and Soviet occupation as well as looting and damage before and after the war, but there were those who saw its greatness and fought to save it. Not least of these was Otto’s butler, who stayed with the house through all the owners until his death, guarding what treasures he could. Eisen, a senior fellow at Brookings, also introduces us to other occupants, including Col. Rudolf Toussaint, who worked tirelessly to avoid war, and American Ambassador Laurence Steinhardt, who brokered the simultaneous withdrawal of Russian and American troops and secured the sale of the house to the State Department in return for wartime loan forgiveness. Even more interesting is the story of Shirley Temple Black, who was there for the Prague Spring in 1968 and the Velvet Revolution in 1989.

A well-told story for readers interested in Czechoslovakia, its creation, its fall to fascism and then communism, and rescue from both.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-49578-5

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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