A candid portrayal of wartime privations is followed by a blur of unexamined events.

THE MISSING MATISSE

A MEMOIR

The grandson of artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) recalls his adolescence in Nazi-occupied France.

Most of Matisse’s debut memoir focuses on his experiences during World War II, when he abetted his father’s underground missions; attended schools where he suffered from lice, bullies, and censorious administrators; and nearly starved on meager food rations. In Paris, he sometimes got vitamin cookies from the Red Cross, donated by American Quakers. His clothing was “a hodgepodge of hand-me-downs” that he quickly outgrew. For the most part, the author captures his teenage voice and perspective, imbuing the memoir with the tone of a picaresque novel. He portrays himself as daring, sassy, and curious. His curiosity makes all the more unbelievable the mystery at the heart of the book: the missing Matisse of the title, it turns out, is not one of his grandfather’s paintings but the author’s identity. When he was 12, before enrolling him in a boarding school, his mother told him that he was to be known by another surname, not Matisse, adding no explanation. Nor did the author ask about this sudden change even though he forthrightly asked about much else. He wondered if he was really the son of the man he called Papa, whom he respected and loved. After the vivid chapters that take place during the war, the narrative loses momentum. While living in Normandy, Matisse learned that his parents divorced, which shocked him, but his mother offered little explanation. A few weeks later he got word that his mother was dying, destitute, in a run-down hospital, an incredible fate for the daughter-in-law of France’s most famous artist. But again, there was no explanation. Inexplicably estranged from his once-adored Papa, Matisse, married, moved to Canada and later the United States. He divorced three times and finally met the love of his life.

A candid portrayal of wartime privations is followed by a blur of unexamined events.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1496413833

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Tyndale House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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

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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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