Hearing today’s leaders proclaim deep religious convictions, especially around election time, readers may feel that they...

WILLIAM WILBERFORCE

THE LIFE OF THE GREAT ANTI-SLAVE TRADE CAMPAIGNER

Richly satisfying biography of a great humanitarian who was also thoroughly likable.

It took 20 years of struggle by William Wilberforce (1759–1833) before the House of Commons finally voted in 1807 to abolish the slave trade, observes former British Conservative Party leader Hague (William Pitt the Younger, 2005). Great parliamentary figures from William Pitt to Charles James Fox loved Wilberforce for his intelligence, wit, warmth and political acumen, even when they did not share his fervent religious convictions. Son of a rich merchant, he entered Parliament in 1780 and in 1785 converted to Evangelicalism, an intense movement that believed Christian principles applied to all areas of life, public as well as private. When Wilberforce decided in 1787 to oppose the slave trade, he joined a tiny group of religious advocates; most Englishmen were indifferent. The abolitionists launched the first modern, issue-oriented PR campaign with a torrent of speeches, rallies, pamphlets and sermons, and within a few years almost everyone had an opinion about slavery. Parliamentary opponents, who claimed that abolishing the trade would impoverish Britain, were on the defensive when disaster struck. The French Revolution threw Europe into turmoil; its armies seemed invincible, and its defenders denounced slavery, tainting the abolitionist cause in patriotic Britons’ eyes. Prime Minister Pitt, who was against the slave trade, turned his attention to national defense. Wilberforce became a voice in the wilderness, repeatedly introducing his antislavery bill, eloquently defending it and watching it fail. But the passage of years rendered the issue less controversial, and persistence gradually weakened the opposition. By 1807, even the House of Lords did not object, and Parliament overwhelmingly approved the Abolition Act. Hague paints a dynamic picture of Wilberforce as a man obsessed with his Christian obligations who continually excoriated himself for falling short.

Hearing today’s leaders proclaim deep religious convictions, especially around election time, readers may feel that they don’t make Christians like they used to.

Pub Date: June 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-15-101267-1

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2008

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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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