ALWAYS, RACHEL

THE LETTERS OF RACHEL CARSON AND DOROTHY FREEMAN, 1952-1964

A profusion of artful letters, the greater part from the mellifluous pen of Carson, detailing everyday life while writing The Edge of the Sea and Silent Spring. It's a wonder that Carson ever had a spare moment to churn out her books, considering the sheer tonnage of letters she produced and the obvious care and attention that went into every one. The letters from Freeman — Carson's Maine coast neighbor — can also be a pleasure, with their descriptive energy (editor Martha Freeman is her daughter), but the bulk are Carson's, and there lies the main interest. Carson's letters are deeply personal, and access to them has the quality of secretly sharing an intimate conversation floating over from a nearby café table: "... always the sense of your presence, and your sweet tenderness, and love was very real to me." There are forays into nature writing, with much birding and poking around tidal pools; and — this is the correspondence of two friends, after all — there's talk of furniture and clothes, hair styles and manicures. Carson, not surprisingly, is most compelling when expressing how she feels about her writing: her fears concerning its quality; the frustrations and satisfactions of research; the joys of having William Shawn tell her that the first draft of Silent Spring (which was serialized in the New Yorker) was "a brilliant achievement...full of beauty and loveliness and depth of feeling." Medical problems plagued both the Carson and Freeman families; Carson's later letters are riddled with one bit of bad news after the next, from rheumatoid arthritis to iriditis, to metastasized cancer. Yet her gradual decline is related so sparingly and with such mettle, it is overpowering. Darting, fresh, sensuous, pleasingly elliptical at times, these letters also serve to tether the increasingly deified Carson firmly to earth — just where she'd want to be.

Pub Date: March 20, 1995

ISBN: 0807070114

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1995

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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