Courtly, engaging, down-to-earth letters by a kindly English aristocrat of the old school.

COUNTING ONE'S BLESSINGS

THE SELECTED LETTERS OF QUEEN ELIZABETH THE QUEEN MOTHER

A lifetime of letters by the beloved queen mother reflects a tumultuous century in England.

Edited by Shawcross (The Queen Mother: The Official Biography, 2009, etc.), these letters by Elizabeth Bowes Lyon (1900–2002) move from the gushing expressions of a young privileged person to a grasp of sobering responsibility and mature conviction as world events began to shape her future. The vivacious youngest daughter to Lord and Lady Strathmore, growing up amid a big, happy family on their country estates, Elizabeth reveals her early sunny disposition in letters to her mother and rather disorganized education but keen mimicry of the Scottish dialect as written to her favorite brother, David. Evidently well-loved and popular, she attracted many suitors, including the stammering, awkward second son of George V, called Bertie, whom she politely rebuffed for two years but then accepted in January 1923 (“I feel terrified now I’ve done it…in fact nobody is more surprised than me”). Fourteen years as the Duchess of York followed fairly happily, during which Elizabeth (“Lilibet”) and Margaret were born. The untimely death of George V and the stunning abdication of Edward VIII delivered back-to-back blows, and Elizabeth reveals an authentic loyalty to her husband (“I am terrified for him…do help him,” she wrote to her reprobate brother-in-law) and growing confidence bolstered by religion and a sense of being in touch with the British people. Her natural touch helped gain the crown enormous support during World War II, as revealed in her radio appeals to British and American women.

Courtly, engaging, down-to-earth letters by a kindly English aristocrat of the old school.

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-374-18522-0

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

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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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