VICTORIA AND ALBERT

THEIR LOVE AND THEIR TRAGEDIES

A delightful and engaging joint biography of Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, from prolific popular historian and British royals watcher Hough (Born Royal: The Lives and Loves of the Young Windsors, 1988, etc.). When the 20-year-old Queen Victoria married Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1840, the United Kingdom was the richest and most powerful country in the world. Hough draws chiefly on Victoria's letters and extant journals to give us the story of these young people until Albert's premature death from typhoid in 1861. We read of Victoria's secluded upbringing and limited education, designed to shield her from the decadence and unpopularity of her predecessors on the throne, and of Albert's sense of moral duty and public service, in contrast with his own equally dissolute family. Despite occasional rows and misunderstandings, Victoria was totally devoted to her consort. Albert, at first unpopular in his adopted nation, provided invaluable emotional support to a frequently nervous and insecure Victoria. His greatest triumphs were probably his role in keeping Britain from entering the American Civil War on the side of the South and his promotion of the Great Exhibition, held in London in 1851 to celebrate the Industrial Revolution and promote peace in Europe. The couple had nine children (against popular sentiment, Victoria used chloroform to ease the pains of childbirth), and the queen later blamed their eldest son and heir, the future Edward VII, for his father's death, which followed the shocking news of Edward's first of many sexual misadventures. Hough avoids cheap sensationalism, but his narrative is at times maddeningly matter- of-fact: He offers few interpretive insights and gives the reader no explanations of Victoria's constitutional position and political views (e.g., why her refusal to dismiss certain ladies on her staff resulted in the collapse of the Tory government in 1839). Nonetheless, a fitting corrective to Victoria's often misunderstood popular image. (8 pages illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 1996

ISBN: 0-312-14822-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1996

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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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