A deft political memoir that contains a national portrait.

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Kava in the Blood

Thomson (Wild Vanilla, 2014, etc.) recounts the two Fijian coups of 1987 in his political memoir.

First published in 1999, this book covers the four months in the summer of 1987 when the government of the newly dominant Indo-Fijians was overthrown by first one and then another military coup. Thomson, a white Fijian of Scottish descent serving as the government’s permanent secretary of information, learned of the first coup when a group of soldiers in gas masks stormed into his office and a lieutenant colonel dictated to Thomson—at gunpoint—an announcement of the coup to be read on the radio. A series of maneuvers resulted in Governor General Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, a man whom Thomson claims to have respected more than any man other than his own father, becoming the sole executive of Fiji. In the months that followed, Thomson observed Ganilau’s attempts to enforce order and uphold the Fijian constitution as the small Pacific nation lurched unsteadily toward a new form of government. This updated edition, printed in 2008, includes new photographs as well as a second afterword explaining the evolution of the Fijian republic since 1999, including two subsequent coups that have “scarred Fiji’s political landscape.” From the first page, Thomson ably conveys his affection for his homeland: “When you lift your eyes landward from the sunburnt undulations of the Ra coast, you see the Nakauvadra mountain range rising three thousand feet above you.” National and personal history mix to form a narrative that feels as comprehensive as a fine social novel: Fiji is revealed from its highest seat of power to the ubiquitous kava drink shared by Fijians on the roadside. Thomson’s transitional moment of political power proves the perfect entry point to examine a society that has been in perpetual transition for centuries, and the anxieties of 1987 (and 1999 and 2008) seem as relevant today as they did then as nations continue to seek improved forms of government and are forced to contend with the unexpected consequences of revolution.

A deft political memoir that contains a national portrait.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4196-9576-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: BookSurge Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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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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