A fresh, well-researched, nuanced portrait.


A Dutch biographer and literary critic re-creates the textures of Rembrandt's world.

Drawing on the significant resources of the Rembrandt Research Project, Rembrandt Documents Project, and the multivolume Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings as well as histories and archival material, Blom offers an assured, discerning biography. The author illuminates the esteemed artist’s early life, beginning in Leiden, where Rembrandt was born in 1606, and ending in Amsterdam, where he painted his “breakthrough” work, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp, in 1632. Blom creates a multifaceted view of Leiden, which had emerged from political siege, famine, and plague to become Holland’s prosperous second city and was the place where Rembrandt grew up, studied, and worked until he moved to the Dutch capital in 1631. The son of a malt-miller, Rembrandt was restless, strong-willed, and ambitious; enrolled in the University of Leiden when he was 14, he left after two years, possibly because of religious strife besetting the institution. His parents supported his art apprenticeships in Leiden and briefly in Amsterdam, where he focused on history painting, copying his teacher’s works. Blom follows Rembrandt’s artistic evolution, honing a style of etching notable for its “looseness, bravura, and ostensible nonchalance” and experimenting with self-portraits “to see how different emotions, moods and temperaments were expressed in the face.” Included among more than 100 illustrations are many self-portraits, images that serve as “a kind of autobiography.” Along with social, cultural, political, and religious contexts for Rembrandt’s life, Blom details the nitty-gritty of making art, such as the complicated, time-consuming process of grinding pigments and improvising paint tubes from knotted pig bladders. As Rembrandt became increasingly well-known and admired, his work was purchased and commissioned by members of the court. The author notes, however, that he died alone and destitute; by 1669, his work had gone out of fashion.

A fresh, well-researched, nuanced portrait. (100 illustrations)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-53179-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 21

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?