A nuanced portrait of leadership, and a fine complement to recent portraits of Churchill by, among others, John Keegan and...

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF CHURCHILL

A STUDY IN CHARACTER

The greatest Briton—so a 2002 BBC poll declared Winston Churchill—comes in for scrutiny in this absorbing profile by military historian Holmes.

Of the 20th-century’s politicians, Churchill seemed ablest to swirl in the currents of controversy without drowning. He was eminently practical; he worked tremendously hard; he was unquestionably brave; and in almost everything he turned his hand to, he proved a “gifted amateur.” He also nourished contradictions, among them an odd steadiness against what was almost certainly advanced alcoholism and a fondness for wearing uniforms; “apart from that foible,” remarks Holmes of the latter, “he was the antithesis of a militarist.” Yet for all his fine qualities, Churchill was not altogether admirable; as Holmes reveals, he was something of a bully toward his widowed (but by no means cowed) mother, and throughout his life he was an opportunist through and through. Early fame came to him, for instance, when Churchill escaped from a prison camp during the Boer War, leaving two fellow inmates behind; though Holmes believes that Churchill did not intend to abandon them, “I cannot imagine him waiting too long on the far side of that wall.” Churchill, however, was plenty self-critical and self-aware. One of Holmes’s discoveries in the course of this study of character is especially revealing: haunted by the needless deaths of thousands of Commonwealth soldiers at Gallipoli, a WWI campaign he had championed, Churchill was near-paralyzed at the thought that the Normandy landings of WWII might fail. In the face of neocons who are now busily trying to claim Churchill as a forebear, Holmes reminds us that Churchill was a liberal whom opportunity, and opportunism, swept into the Conservative Party, “which only grudgingly accepted him.” He reminds us, too, that Churchill was early on an advocate of a strong united Europe—in part as a way of containing American expansionism as well as Soviet ambitions.

A nuanced portrait of leadership, and a fine complement to recent portraits of Churchill by, among others, John Keegan and John Lukacs.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-465-03082-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2005

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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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