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

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. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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