As essential as any political biography is likely to be.

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ALL THE POWERS OF EARTH

THE POLITICAL LIFE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN VOL. III, 1856-1863

The third of a projected five-volume political biography, this one dealing robustly with Lincoln’s political ascent, ending with his election to the presidency in 1860.

Blumenthal—who has served as a senior adviser to both Bill and Hillary Clinton and the Washington editor for the New Yorker—has published two earlier volumes in his series (Wrestling With His Angel, 2017, etc.). Here, the author continues to establish himself as the definitive chronicler of Lincoln’s political career. The years 1856-1860 were tumultuous ones in American history, and Blumenthal astutely examines many seminal events: slavery’s fracture of the country, the 1856 assault on Sen. Charles Sumner, the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown’s deadly attacks at Pottawatomie Creek, 1856, and Harpers Ferry, 1859, Lincoln’s transformative Cooper Union speech in 1860. Some crucial characters appear throughout, including Frederick Douglass, Emerson and Thoreau, Dred Scott, and John Wilkes Booth, who was present at Brown’s hanging and at some of Stephen A. Douglas’ presidential campaign appearances. Some facts will surprise readers with only a modest knowledge of Lincoln. For example, he didn’t like to be called “Abe” (he preferred “Lincoln”); listeners were sometimes put off by his voice, which could be high and squeaky; and he was masterful behind the scenes of his campaigns—he was, Blumenthal reminds us continually, a politician. Some will probably be surprised to learn that he did not leave his home in Springfield during the entire campaign and that he received less than 40 percent of the popular vote. The Democratic Party had split—North and South—thus assuring Lincoln’s victory. Blumenthal’s explorations of all of these elements are stunningly thorough, both wide-angled and microscopic. He quotes from newspapers, books, speeches, congressional transcripts, and numerous other sources. At the beginning, he includes a timeline of major events and cast of major characters.

As essential as any political biography is likely to be.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7728-3

Page Count: 784

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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