UNCROWNED KING

THE LIFE OF PRINCE ALBERT

A distinguished biographer of Queen Victoria demonstrates the political importance of her beloved husband. From the time of his marriage to Victoria in 1840 until his untimely death in 1861, Albert of Saxe-Coburg was never wholeheartedly accepted by the people of England. He always spoke German in private, and his public speeches were delivered in heavily accented English. A figure of fun in satirical periodicals such as Punch, he never received the civil or military honors that Victoria wanted for him. Weintraub (Disraeli, 1993; Victoria: An Intimate Biography, 1987; etc.) makes clear how much she adored him, how Albert bolstered her self-confidence, and how important their relationship was to the maintenance of the monarchy in the 19th century. Albert never usurped Victoria's role as monarch, but he took advantage of her repeated pregnancies, and of partisan shifts between Whig and Tory, to become acting monarch on occasion, and the most important adviser to the monarch on every occasion. A public figure who carved out a role as a promoter of science, technology, and educational reform, he achieved a public relations coup through his sponsorship of the famous Great Exhibition of 1851, a symbol of Britain's position as the world's dominant industrial nation. Albert's importance was underlined by Victoria's response after his death, when she put the monarchy in danger by virtually retiring from public life for nearly a decade. While establishing Albert's importance, Weintraub provides illuminating details of the private life and daily routine of the royal couple. Their strong physical attraction for each other and their mutual enthusiasm for eroticism in painting and sculpture were combined with a sincere commitment to higher moral standards at court and in public. While providing a window into the private lives of 19th- century royalty, Weintraub also makes a critical historical point about the adaptation of the monarchy to the demands of a more democratic age.

Pub Date: June 9, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-83486-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1997

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A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier...

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

  • National Book Award Winner

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING

A moving record of Didion’s effort to survive the death of her husband and the near-fatal illness of her only daughter.

In late December 2003, Didion (Where I Was From, 2003, etc.) saw her daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, hospitalized with a severe case of pneumonia, the lingering effects of which would threaten the young woman’s life for several months to come. As her daughter struggled in a New York ICU, Didion’s husband, John Gregory Dunne, suffered a massive heart attack and died on the night of December 30, 2003. For 40 years, Didion and Dunne shared their lives and work in a marriage of remarkable intimacy and endurance. In the wake of Dunne’s death, Didion found herself unable to accept her loss. By “magical thinking,” Didion refers to the ruses of self-deception through which the bereaved seek to shield themselves from grief—being unwilling, for example, to donate a dead husband’s clothes because of the tacit awareness that it would mean acknowledging his final departure. As a poignant and ultimately doomed effort to deny reality through fiction, that magical thinking has much in common with the delusions Didion has chronicled in her several previous collections of essays. But perhaps because it is a work of such intense personal emotion, this memoir lacks the mordant bite of her earlier work. In the classics Slouching Toward Bethlehem (1968) and The White Album (1979), Didion linked her personal anxieties to her withering dissection of a misguided culture prey to its own self-gratifying fantasies. This latest work concentrates almost entirely on the author’s personal suffering and confusion—even her husband and daughter make but fleeting appearances—without connecting them to the larger public delusions that have been her special terrain.

A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-4314-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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