A tangled tale—but now that we have Anastasia’s bones, Russian royal-watchers may find this a pleasing historical account.

RED PRINCESS

A REVOLUTIONARY LIFE

An exiled Russian noblewoman turns Bolshevik, courtesy of Hitler.

Sophy Dolgorouky, the author’s grandmother, left Russia as a child, fleeing with her family following the October Revolution. “Emotional, contradictory, troubled,” as her granddaughter puts it, she sported in the bohemian scene in Paris, married young and moved to England—but then returned to France following the Nazi occupation to tend to her mother. “Sofka,” as the grandmother was called, kept careful notes of what she saw: “All music has ceased on all French wireless transmissions,” she records, “dancing is forbidden.” Her husband, an RAF gunner, was taken prisoner; then she, too, was interned as an enemy alien. Still something of an ingénue, she became a socialist and activist as a prisoner, even refusing repatriation to continue her work helping organize escapes—until she eventually set herself loose, in an entirely improbable turn of events. Zinovieff capably recounts her grandmother’s life, her narrative aided by diaries, journals and even a published autobiography, filling in details that her grandmother had omitted for one reason or another. As Zinovieff writes of one affair, “I wondered why she left these gaps; it certainly wasn’t prudery.” A committed member of the Communist Party following the war, the aging Sofka became an apologist for Stalinism, lauded within the Soviet Union for having shed her class-enemy status and embraced the cause, though not above using her royal status when it served her. “Her excuse for Soviet oppression,” Zinovieff writes, “was that it…was a continuation of what she called ‘the historical, paranoid fear of dissent that has dogged Russian rulers through the centuries.’ ” Mostly, however, the picture of Sofka that emerges is less a propagandist than a slightly more weathered, Bolshevik version of Auntie Mame.

A tangled tale—but now that we have Anastasia’s bones, Russian royal-watchers may find this a pleasing historical account.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-60598-009-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2008

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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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