What lay beneath the compulsions? Leigh never gets beyond the surface of Kelly’s need to please a distant, philandering...

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TRUE GRACE

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF AN AMERICAN PRINCESS

Gossipy biography of Her Serene Highness.

Setting to work on a biography of Grace Kelly, Leigh (The Secret Letters of Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy, 2003, etc.) was advised by her editor, “I don’t want anything warmed over.” By that criterion, her results are decidedly mixed. In broad outline, Leigh’s version offers little that departs from the themes of nine other Kelly biographies and several books that consider her in passing. Here again we see Kelly obsessed with becoming a star. “She was,” a friend recalls, “like a Patton tank on her way to somewhere.” Kelly threatened to break a long-term contract at MGM if the studio refused to loan her to Paramount to play a plum role in The Country Girl. Metro relented and Kelly copped an Oscar for her performance. Leigh also follows other biographers to the bedrooms where Kelly walked in, stripped naked, then pursued an affair, often with a considerably older co-star (Gary Cooper, William Holden, Frank Sinatra, et al.). Kelly’s storybook marriage to Prince Rainier had scant effect on her promiscuity. The union, which sprang from a public-relations move to polish Monaco’s faded image, soon left Princess Grace lonely; she diverted herself, as her husband did, with affairs. Leigh does bring a fresh perspective to Kelly’s acting, especially in a favorable critique of Kelly’s underrated work in High Noon. To a narrative highlighting sleeping arrangements, Leigh adds to what has already been reported about Kelly’s prodigious sex life the news that she slept with Tony Curtis. The author also devotes an entire chapter to the question of whether Kelly’s affair with David Niven was short- or long-term.

What lay beneath the compulsions? Leigh never gets beyond the surface of Kelly’s need to please a distant, philandering father.

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-312-34236-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2007

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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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