DON'T LOOK ROUND

In spite of the intent to charm, Trefusis's collection of observations, anecdotes, and aphorisms—hitherto published only in England, in 1952—reveals again that deeply disturbed and disturbing personality that appeared in Echo (1990), the autobiographical novel of the author's romance with Vita Sackville- West. ``Places make me happy,'' Trefusis complained, and ``people make me miserable''—which accounts for her annoying mannerism of personifying countries (``France is cerebral, Italy sensuous, Spain passionate'') and objectifying people (hair ``the color of potato chips''). To her complaint, her husband replied, ``Come off it!...[Stop] strutting about in front of the looking glass.'' Trefusis, the rich, restless, frivolous daughter of a royal mistress, records the first 50 years of the 20th century as merely a reflection in her personal mirror, with herself—her trivialities, opinions, and prejudices—at the center: During an interview with Mussolini, one of the most feared and powerful men in the world, she dropped her purse and, she claims, as he crawled about the floor picking up her lipstick, love letters, and cigarettes, they discussed the personality of the French—by which she means the urban upper class she identifies with. Occasionally, Trefusis shares the scene with some of her seemingly empty-headed friends—Emerald Cunard, Sybil Colfax—and her favorite author, Nancy Mitford. But, above all, Trefusis admires her mother, whose cruelty to strangers she offers as an example of wit: to an old Jewess crying during an air raid, Trefusis's mother said, ``Madam, this is not the Wailing Wall.'' Air raids, casualties, the deprivations of others—all disappear behind the ``gaiety'' of war in London, a minor inconvenience to Trefusis, cutting off her access to French cosmetics. She is, as Quennell says, a ``mythomaniac,'' an inventor, but a very unpleasant one, like the irrelevant, slightly grotesque ``decorative'' line drawings scattered throughout.

Pub Date: May 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-670-84067-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1992

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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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