Lawson ably encompasses the life of this mysterious, many-sided author, from nymph to mother to crone.

MARY POPPINS, SHE WROTE

THE LIFE OF P.L. TRAVERS

Lawson (The Allens Affair, not reviewed) offers an intriguing, surprisingly rich literary life of the fairly obscure Australian author best known for her cheery children's series featuring nanny Mary Poppins.

The Disney film based on Travers’s well-loved flying English nanny was not made until 1963, 30 years after Mary Poppins was originally published. Here, Lawson uncovers Travers’s various disguises. Born in Maryborough (Queensland) in 1899, Helen Lyndon Goff absorbed fanciful stories and poetry told by her English-Irish father, a banker who drank heavily and was eventually demoted from bank manager to clerk. With his death, Travers fell under the supervision of her stalwart spinster aunt, Ellie, in Bowral (New South Wales), and our smart young heroine, known then as Pamela, eventually set out for Sydney with the short-lived plan of making her name as an actress. Travels to England and Ireland whetted her appetite for becoming a writer, and correspondence with George William Russell, “AE,” the older married editor of the Irish Statesman, had both romantic and literary implications. AE introduced her to Yeats and encouraged her to publish; her first stories about the Banks children and their dictatorial, magical nanny Mary Poppins first appeared in 1926. Travers traveled extensively as a journalist and seems to have latched onto older, powerful male figures all her life: Besides AE, there was Alfred Richard Orage, Armenian guru G.I. Gurdjieff and Irish critic Francis Macnamara. Travers wrote her many Mary Poppins adventures over the course of 54 years, with delicate drawings by Mary Shepard; with Disney's film adaptation, Travers became a rich woman, though not a famous one. Her adoption of a Dublin twin, Camillus, allowed her finally someone to “love and control,” and she settled comfortably into the role of New Age disciple. She died in 1996.

Lawson ably encompasses the life of this mysterious, many-sided author, from nymph to mother to crone.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2006

ISBN: 0-7432-9816-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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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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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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