Sympathetic but true to a life lived for love.

ROSAMOND LEHMANN

Literary biographer Hastings (Evelyn Waugh, 1995, etc.) turns to a novelist whose life paralleled the cycles of romantic passion and despair she portrayed in her own books.

The author admits she hedged on the opportunity to write about Rosamond Lehmann, with whom she shared friendship and “hours of gossip” until the latter’s death in 1990, implying that the results of an honest effort (which she has certainly produced) would have been too painful for both. Delving at length into her subject’s family association with the British literati—a grandfather had hobnobbed with Dickens—and early childhood, Hastings finds a girl born to comfort in 1901 but constantly aware that the Upper Class were Different. “Rosie . . . longs for affection,” her father wrote prophetically when she was eight, “and expands under its glow.” An older Rosamond didn’t deny herself when it came to matters of the heart. Trapped in a loveless first marriage, she cheated; her husband knew her lover well, and they became a ménage. When her first novel, Dusty Answer, was published in 1927 to critical acclaim, she began to hear a refrain that would resound for over four decades in response to her novels: “Oh, Miss Lehmann, it’s my story.” Crystallizing female rites of passage in England between the two world wars, her work tapped a seam of empathy far beyond its shores. Her continuing series of serious affairs and flings (one with Ian Fleming) fanned the flames; lesbian readers, for instance, often insisted (wrongly) that she was posing as a heterosexual. Hastings expertly gleans the significant details of emotional attrition along the way and evokes a dark decline. Spurned by longtime lover Cecil Day-Lewis in favor of a younger woman, Rosamond was finally broken by the tragic death of her 24-year-old daughter Sally in 1958.

Sympathetic but true to a life lived for love.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2003

ISBN: 0-099-73011-1

Page Count: 476

Publisher: Vintage UK/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2003

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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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