The richly detailed account of a courageous woman’s life.



A World War II heroine comes to light decades after the war.

Mrazek, a five-term congressman and award-winning novelist, illuminates a lesser-known and appalling area of the war: life in the Philippines after the 1941 Japanese conquest. Born of an American father and Filipino mother, Florence Finch (1915-2016) attended an American-run school in Manila. As a young woman, her secretarial skills earned her jobs at the Army-Navy YMCA and then as administrative assistant in the U.S. Army Department of Intelligence. She married an American sailor in 1941. With the Japanese conquest in December 1941, her job vanished, and her husband died in battle a few months later. Concealing her American connections, she obtained a job with the Japanese-run Philippine Liquid Fuel Distribution Union, which controlled all energy resources for the island. It is historically accurate to describe Japan’s behavior in the occupied Philippines as loathsome, and Mrazek offers numerous accounts of the brutality. Civilians received rough treatment, and the awful conditions in prison and internment camps were no secret. Inmates lived in squalor and on a starvation diet. “There was never enough food for everyone,” writes the author. Soon after beginning work, Florence began forging ration coupons to obtain fuel, which was then sold on the black market to buy supplies for the prisoners and the resistance. Arrested in October 1944, she endured terrible torture, rape, and starvation until American forces arrived in February 1945, when she was 78 pounds and near death. After her recovery, she moved to the U.S. and married. The remainder of her life was less traumatic, and she died at the age of 101 with many honors, including the Medal of Freedom. Apparently a member of the history-is-boring school, Mrazek tells his story in a novelistic style with invented dialogue and access to everyone’s thoughts. Despite the fairly lowbrow style, he capably describes significant, dramatic events.

The richly detailed account of a courageous woman’s life. (2 maps)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-42227-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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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 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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A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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