A sympathetic, engaging biography.



A writer's long, passionate, peripatetic life.

In 1935, German-born Sybille von Schoenebeck (1911-2006) was living in France, where, because of her German-Jewish ancestry, she felt increasingly vulnerable in a charged political atmosphere. Taking friends’ advice that a British passport would ensure her safety, she married Walter Bedford, an attendant at a London gentlemen’s club, who agreed to the marriage in exchange for a fee of 100 pounds. After dinner and an evening out, the couple never saw each other again. Drawing on archival material, correspondence, diaries, and Bedford’s autobiographical novels and memoir, Hastings, biographer of Evelyn Waugh, Somerset Maugham, and other literary figures, offers a gossipy, well-informed chronicle of a woman noted for her intelligence, talent, and, not least, her circle of famous friends. These included Aldous and Maria Huxley, Thomas Mann and his children, various Bloomsbury denizens, Peggy Guggenheim, Martha Gellhorn (who offered her writing advice), Janet Flanner, and M.F.K. Fisher. Bedford’s early life was difficult: Her parents’ marriage was contentious; her father died when she was a young teenager; her mother was vain and self-absorbed. Sybille was sent to study in England, where she was taken in by a sympathetic couple, beginning a pattern that was to continue throughout her life: “friendships, attachments to a group, a couple, a family not my own” that made her “buoyantly happy.” One woman who looked upon her with a “motherly eye” also initiated her into lesbian sex. After her mother remarried, Bedford lived with the couple in the south of France, where she met the Huxleys, neighbors who became her confidants and supporters. Maria also became her lover, one among many affairs. Hastings traces a “complex web of love and friendship—and occasional hostility” that spun around Bedford, who worked hard to succeed as a writer, producing a travel book based on a stay in Mexico, several novels, a reverent biography of Aldous Huxley, and a memoir.

A sympathetic, engaging biography.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-101-94791-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?