An admirable debut memoir featuring both a compelling narrator and a captivating story.

Lily's Daughter

A MEMOIR

An illuminating coming-of-age memoir set in communist Hungary.

Born to a Jewish mother and Catholic father in 1940, Zsuzsa feels beloved and pampered. By late 1944, the family huddles in a tiny coal cellar with neighbors and listens to the bombs overhead as Nazis invade Budapest. They survive, only to face another type of prison: life under the Stalin regime and, later, the Russian occupation. As she moves through her childhood and teenage years, the precocious Zsuzsa offers cleareyed observations about her relationship with her parents (particularly her mother), friendships, schoolwork, theater and the discovery of boys, along with the struggles to find basics like food, clothing and shelter. Wild rumors fly amid the unexplained disappearances of teachers, family and friends, while arbitrary new government rules lead to nonstop pressure. The contrast of the ordinary and extraordinary creates a fascinating tension. Instead of normal summer camp in the woods, Zsuzsa attends Pioneer Camp at a crumbling mansion where she’s forced into night-guard duty. Instead of a full day of instruction, school hours include singing Red Army songs and marching and standing in formation. Vivid sensory details capture each experience, whether eating a juicy orange for the first time in years or listening to the clattering printing press where her journalist father works. Periodic short sentences and paragraphs cut to the painful truth: “School starts. Fourth grade. A completely new teacher appears.” The 100-plus short sections, organized chronologically, feel cohesive and well-paced, particularly after the opening pages, which provide the background of Zsuzsa’s parents. With its authentic voice and keen observations from a youthful narrator, the story evokes The Diary of Anne Frank. Secondary characters are briefly but vividly introduced and easy to differentiate. The particularly riveting last section offers the delightful paradox of wanting to read faster to reach the conclusion but slower to prolong the enjoyment.

An admirable debut memoir featuring both a compelling narrator and a captivating story.

Pub Date: April 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1468563566

Page Count: 400

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2012

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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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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