A pleasing mixture of high-seas adventure and shrewd analysis.




An illuminating look at an underappreciated chapter of the Revolutionary War: the daring, faintly disreputable, privateer war on British maritime interests.

As Robert Morris, financier to the American Revolution, remarked of the British, “They have much more property to lose than we have.” Accordingly, and following wartime conventions of the era, the Continental Congress commissioned citizen sailors to attack British shipping. For their towering self-interest and for the drain they took on scarce resources necessary to the Continental Navy, John Paul Jones detested them. For carrying the war to the British, Washington, Franklin and John Adams, from a polite remove, cheered them on. For the staggering potential profit, the nation’s leading financiers, Philadelphia’s Morris, the notorious Browns of Providence and an entirely new generation of entrepreneurs and speculators rushed to fund them. Patton (Life Between Wars, 1997, etc.) tells marvelous sea stories about privateers Jeremiah O’Brien, John Manley, James Mugford, Gustavus Conyngham and about the Royal Navy, charged with the impossible task of patrolling a 1,000 miles of coastline with only 50 warships to protect against the depredations of these “legal” pirates. Though the privateers had much to gain, if captured they were denied all rights typically accorded prisoners of war and held under the terms of Parliament’s controversial “Pirate Act of 1777,” untried and without the possibility of exchange in wretched prison ships. Patton also subtly examines the curious interplay between patriotic purpose and economic gain, and the always uneasy marriage between public service and private speculation. Through his sensitive treatment of Morris and the Browns—and especially of Silas Deane, the colonies’ agent in France—and of Nathanael Greene, Washington’s favorite general, the author demonstrates how, from the beginning, rampant capitalism compromised the virtue of the infant republic and how privateering specifically accustomed the country to a variety of enduring, sometimes dubious, financial practices.

A pleasing mixture of high-seas adventure and shrewd analysis.

Pub Date: May 20, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-375-42284-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2008

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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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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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