A singular study exhibiting both military duty and human compassion.

THE PRISONER IN HIS PALACE

SADDAM HUSSEIN, HIS AMERICAN GUARDS, AND WHAT HISTORY LEAVES UNSAID

An insider account of the last days guarding, and bonding with, the former president of Iraq.

A group of 12 American military policemen, deployed to Iraq in August 2006, made up the rotating squad that guarded Saddam Hussein over the course of five months in Baghdad while he was tried, convicted, and executed by hanging on Dec. 30. In this alternating account that moves among time periods delineating Hussein’s bloody history as Iraqi leader, as well as the back stories of many of the officers of the U.S. squad and prosecution team, journalist Bardenwerper, a former infantry officer in Iraq and Pentagon fellow, manages to portray a surprisingly sympathetic character in the former dictator. The Iraqi High Tribunal, housed in a former Baath Party headquarters building in Baghdad, had been established by the American victors and “modeled on UN war crimes tribunals.” Presided over by five Iraqi judges (the leading judge was a prominent Kurd) and stocked by many Shia who had been persecuted by Hussein over the years, the court chose to condemn him for crimes against humanity in the specific 1982 incident of a murderous crackdown of 148 Shiite residents in Dujail rather than for the more notorious chemical gas attacks against Iraqi Kurds during the Iran-Iraq War. At the time of the trial, the air of sectarian violence was rife in Iraq, and Hussein and his defense team—including American lawyer Ramsey Clark and Hussein’s daughter Raghad—were convinced it was a sham trial; Hussein vociferously protested the proceedings in court. Nonetheless, through the eyes of the young soldiers guarding him, the dictator presented as a bland, thoughtful old man who was fastidious in his habits, simple in his pleasures, fond of smoking his cigars in the sun, and discussing his memories with his captors. In skin-crawling detail, the author effectively captures a unique time and place in an engrossing history.

A singular study exhibiting both military duty and human compassion.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1783-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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