In this, the old Africa hand's final book, completed by his wife, Fiona, after his death in 1996, Capstick assembles an admiring and often circuitous biography from the diaries of a lethal and daring soldier of the late British Empire and hunter extraordinaire. As though dictated from an armchair during a long South African evening, Capstick's (The African Adventurers, 1992, etc.) account is anecdotal, repetitive, digression-laden, and composed of hugely elliptical sentences. His insight into his hero's psyche is superficial and often based on Capstick's own predilections. That said, Meinertzhagen's life makes for a ripping good yarn. A child of privilege, he enlisted in the army, landing in British East Africa in 1902 as a young officer in the King's African Rifles. He soon earned fame as a fearless lion hunter, a dedicated soldier who singlehandedly killed scores of restless natives—of the Kikuyu tribe, mainly—and for, of all things, his zeal for ornithology. By WW I, he was fighting in East Africa aginst the Germans and their native allies; as his reputation for ruthless effectiveness grew, so did his quarrels with the British command and his criticism of the Indian troops fighting for the English. His familiarity with the African bush led to a transfer to intelligence, and he served later as a spymaster for Allenby in Palestine. Meinertzhagen seems to have been the Kilroy of the first half of the century: He was present at the Treaty of Versailles; he met Hitler three times in his role as British agent, once carrying a loaded gun with him but failing, to his later regret, to use it; and he tirelessly, in the face of British anti-Semitism, promoted the Zionist cause. He survived shipwrecks, poisoned arrows, airplane crashes, and wild animal attacks, dying in 1967 at age 89. While maddeningly written, with many scattershot and unsupportable observations, not a few firmly in the politically incorrect camp, this is quite a story of one of the last great figures of the colonial age. (7 maps, 10 illustrations)

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 1998

ISBN: 0-312-18271-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1997

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

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?