An impressive, comprehensive biography of the Sun King—a must-add to any Francophile’s library.

KING OF THE WORLD

THE LIFE OF LOUIS XIV

A wonderfully meticulous look at Louis XIV (1638-1715) from a leading historian of France.

“Even by royal standards,” writes Mansel (Aleppo: The Rise and Fall of Syria’s Greatest Merchant City, 2016, etc.), “the family into which the future Louis XIV was born…was a nest of vipers.” He ascended to the throne at age 4, and during more than three decades of the king’s 72-year reign, France was at war. Louis nurtured a lifelong fascination with the army and fighting as well as dancing. After the death of Cardinal Mazarin in 1661, Jean-Baptiste Colbert became Louis’ minister and proved to be one of the ablest in the history of France. He economized, kept accurate accounts, reformed taxes, and introduced a new code of law while expanding trade and France’s colonies. “Louis was a man in pursuit of glory,” writes the author, “a king devoted to dynastic aggrandizement and a leader bent on national expansion.” He introduced a postal system, street lights, and boulevards. His finest creation, of course, was Versailles, to which Mansel, who displays an expansive knowledge of French history, devotes significant attention. Louis controlled every aspect of construction and effectively deserted Paris in its favor. He was famously a micromanager, particularly in wartime, though he lacked the talent of diplomacy and often listened to poor advice. France was involved in wars on all sides, fighting to expand her borders at the Rhine, drawing away imperial forces from the Ottomans, invading the Netherlands, and trying to infiltrate the Spanish throne. Louis also fiddled in English politics, accepting James II in exile and supporting invasions. He used the Stuarts to try to break up Scotland, Ireland, and England and forestall his nemesis, William of Orange. Louis’ revocation of the Edict of Nantes brought about a devastating diaspora, which was only slightly offset by the influx of Jacobites into France. Throughout, the narrative is dense but readable, and the 110-page notes and bibliography section attests to Mansel’s prodigious research.

An impressive, comprehensive biography of the Sun King—a must-add to any Francophile’s library.

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-226-69089-6

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

UNTAMED

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?

more