In spare, delicate prose, Kohler brings a seasoned novelist’s skills to this deeply moving, compelling memoir.

ONCE WE WERE SISTERS

A MEMOIR

Novelist Kohler (Dreaming for Freud, 2014, etc.) reflects on her beloved older sister, Maxine, who was tragically killed in a car accident at the age of 39.

In this intimate, exquisitely written memoir, the author’s first work of nonfiction, she explores the impenetrable bond that can exist between sisters. As the daughters of a wealthy white timber merchant, Sheila and Maxine enjoyed all of the privileges of living on a vast estate outside of Johannesburg in the postwar years under apartheid. Yet upon their father’s untimely death, their seemingly idyllic lives were disrupted as their domineering and impulsive mother abandoned their home and moved with the girls to various new settings. In chapters alternately moving back and forth in time, Kohler recalls pivotal moments throughout their lives: their experiences living on the family estate, being shuttled off to an Anglican boarding school, and their glamorous travels to European cities together as young women, travels that unfortunately led to their early and regrettable decisions to marry. Eventually, raising their families in different cities, each was forced to confront unfaithful husbands—in Maxine’s case, an increasingly violent man who would become responsible for her death. Through these shifts of time and with an expanding consciousness, Kohler subtly seeks to unravel secrets that emerge within each individual. Maxine’s life and the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death serve as a touchstone and became a source of inspiration for the author’s writing. “In story after story,” writes Kohler, “I conjure up my sister in various disguises, as well as other figures from our past. Her bright image leads me onward like a candle in the night. Again and again in various forms and shapes I write her story, colored by my own feelings of love and guilt.”

In spare, delicate prose, Kohler brings a seasoned novelist’s skills to this deeply moving, compelling memoir.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-14-312929-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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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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