Trevelyan rightly concludes that “we cannot fail to be awed by the vastness of his aspirations.” Readers with an interest in...

READ REVIEW

SIR WALTER RALEIGH

The best place for Sir Walter Raleigh, the English historian A.L. Rowse once observed, was the Tower of London. This well-written life by namesake and descendant Trevelyan makes a long but engaging rebuttal.

When Raleigh died in 1618, executed, in a casebook example of double jeopardy, for crimes supposedly committed many years before, he was a deeply unpopular man. “His performance on the scaffold,” writes retired publisher Trevelyan (Rome ’44, not reviewed, etc.), “was a great piece of theater, but it is impossible not to be won over by it, as indeed were all, or nearly all, his spectators.” As a result, and thanks to his wife Bess Throckmorton’s ceaseless labors, Raleigh’s reputation was almost immediately restored, and over the next half-century or so Raleigh became a hero of the republican cause. Not that he was an antimonarchic exemplar; Trevelyan acknowledges that good Sir Walter served the Crown as it suited, though without the anti-Catholic zeal of so much of Elizabeth’s court. (“There are no such things as wars of religion,” he wisely observed, “only civil wars. The condition of man was never bettered by them.”) Raleigh, however, was also careful to look after his own interests first, and his exploits as a privateer and explorer earned him envy and infamy. Trevelyan catalogues Raleigh’s many accomplishments: he was a poet of some distinction; he was a chemist and sort-of-doctor who fitted up his cell in the Tower of London as a laboratory and concocted a cure-all called “Balsam of Guinea,” the popularity of which “lasted for the rest of the century”; he was a great soldier, sailor, and explorer, a parliamentarian and historian; and, perhaps most famously (or infamously, depending on your point of view), he introduced tobacco to England, and possibly the potato to Ireland. All signal achievements, to be sure, but not enough to save the great swashbuckler from the intrigues of the English court.

Trevelyan rightly concludes that “we cannot fail to be awed by the vastness of his aspirations.” Readers with an interest in the man and his time will find this vast account a pleasure.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2004

ISBN: 0-8050-7502-X

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more