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Of some interest to exploration buffs, though less so than Martin Dugard’s recent Into Africa (p. 202).

Harem girl to renowned explorer to Edwardian dowager: the improbable life of “a lady of mystery.”

Barbara Maria Szasz, a Hungarian Transylvanian, was born around 1845. Whether out of financial need or some other reason, her parents placed her in a Turkish harem at the age of four. No dark fate that: as Shipman (The Man Who Found the Missing Link, 2001, etc.) writes, channeling the voice of African explorer Sam Baker, “Growing up in a harem was rather like attending a convent school.” Ten years later, now renamed Florenz, our young heroine was put up for sale in an “elite white slave auction,” where Sam Baker and his faithful Sikh companion Duleep Singh happened to be passing by when the harem-keeper Ali put her on the block. Happily, Ali accepted Baker’s bid against that of the local boss: writes Shipman, now in Ali’s voice, “I cannot send you to the pasha. . . . He is a wicked man, selfish and cruel, and you would hate him. You are going with the Englishman.” Morally opposed to slavery but apparently not opposed to romancing a 14-year-old, Baker took Florence, for so she was now called, off to exotic venues such as Bucharest and Alexandria, where “they drank and ate and laughed their way through the night.” The venues got less romantic when Sam resumed his long passion for African exploration, and then Florence’s knowledge of Arabic and her fearlessness came in handy as they combed the African Great Lakes for secondary sources of the Nile. A good story, but the narrative suffers from cuteness: Shipman’s habit of dramatizing the undramatic with invented dialogue (“Sam has brought me the only freedom, the greatest love, and the most lasting contentment of my life. . . . There is no point in living if he is gone”) makes for often tedious reading.

Of some interest to exploration buffs, though less so than Martin Dugard’s recent Into Africa (p. 202).

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-050555-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2003

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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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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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