MOTHER INDIA

A POLITICAL BIOGRAPHY OF INDIRA GANDHI

New York Times correspondent Gupte (Vengeance, 1985; The Crowded Earth, 1984, etc.) says here that Indira Gandhi is ``hard to read.'' In fact, she is nearly invisible in this ``political biography'' that mostly reproduces, with all their organizational flaws, Gupte's previous articles on Gandhi—except perhaps for ten chapters depicting the slain Indian P.M. as selfish, inept, tyrannical, intellectually limited, and surrounded by sycophants. Born in 1917, daughter of Nehru, friend of Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi grew up amidst economic privilege and political turmoil that marked her whole life. Married to a Parsi she met while studying at Oxford, Gandhi, mother of two children, began her political apprenticeship by helping her father after her mother's death; like most of her family, she spent time in jail for political opposition. Upon her father's death in 1964, she herself became India's P.M., winning the support of foreign ``Titans'' (the description here of her meeting with LBJ is charming)—but not native Indians. Rioting, urban and rural poverty, religious conflict, war with Pakistan, and corruption—of which she herself was convicted before she suspended the constitution and jailed the accusatory journalist—were, according to Gupte, symptoms of Gandhi's failure to carry on the Mahatma/Nehru vision of a secular, unified, democratic India. Her assassination in 1984, like her son's in 1991 (with which the book ends), seemed inevitable; and— as Gupte points out in a sad concluding note—there is now no Indian leader of sufficient stature to replace the Gandhis. A major flaw of this high-minded book is its composition, a lumpy mix of the author's opinions and earlier pieces, gossip, and memories of Gandhi's friends. Similarly, the exposition is confusing, structured around issues rather than its subject's life. A proper political biography of Gandhi is yet to be written. (Sixteen pages of photos—not seen.)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-684-19296-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1991

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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