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

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THE INDOMITABLE FLORENCE FINCH

THE UNTOLD STORY OF A WAR WIDOW TURNED RESISTANCE FIGHTER AND SAVIOR OF AMERICAN POWS

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 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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Finely honed biographical intuition and a novelist’s sensibility make for a stylish, engrossing narrative.

THE MAN IN THE RED COAT

A fresh, urbane history of the dramatic and melodramatic belle epoque.

When Barnes (The Only Story, 2018, etc.), winner of the Man Booker Prize and many other literary awards, first saw John Singer Sargent’s striking portrait of Dr. Samuel Pozzi—handsome, “virile, yet slender,” dressed in a sumptuous scarlet coat—he was intrigued by a figure he had not yet encountered in his readings about 19th-century France. The wall label revealed that Pozzi was a gynecologist; a magazine article called him “not only the father of French gynecology, but also a confirmed sex addict who routinely attempted to seduce his female patients.” The paradox of healer and exploiter posed an alluring mystery that Barnes was eager to investigate. Pozzi, he discovered, succeeded in his amorous affairs as much as in his acclaimed career. “I have never met a man as seductive as Pozzi,” the arrogant Count Robert de Montesquiou recalled; Pozzi was a “man of rare good sense and rare good taste,” “filled with knowledge and purpose” as well as “grace and charm.” The author’s portrait, as admiring as Sargent’s, depicts a “hospitable, generous” man, “rich by marriage, clubbable, inquisitive, cultured and well travelled,” and brilliant. The cosmopolitan Pozzi, his supercilious friend Montesquiou, and “gentle, whimsical” Edmond de Polignac are central characters in Barnes’ irreverent, gossipy, sparkling history of the belle epoque, “a time of vast wealth for the wealthy, of social power for the aristocracy, of uncontrolled and intricate snobbery, of headlong colonial ambition, of artistic patronage, and of duels whose scale of violence often reflected personal irascibility more than offended honor.” Dueling, writes the author, “was not just the highest form of sport, it also required the highest form of manliness.” Barnes peoples his history with a spirited cast of characters, including Sargent and Whistler, Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt (who adored Pozzi), Henry James and Proust, Pozzi’s diarist daughter, Catherine, and unhappy wife, Therese, and scores more.

Finely honed biographical intuition and a novelist’s sensibility make for a stylish, engrossing narrative.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-65877-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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