A fine account of a brilliant piece of political strategy.




Neither biography nor history of the Civil War, this is an account of Lincoln’s tactics between the 1860 election and his announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862.

Historian Klingaman (The First Century, 1990) points out that the abolitionists, although heroes to us, were looked upon by most of their contemporaries as a noisy minority, irresponsible and perhaps crazy. Lincoln disapproved of them, knowing that most Northerners opposed slavery but usually despised Negroes nevertheless. The conflicts leading to the Civil War, in the author’s view, had less to do with abolition than with the spread of slavery to the West, where (alarmists feared) slave labor would depress wages and monopolize the cheap land. During his presidential campaign, Lincoln took pains to assure the South that he had no interest in abolition, and even after secession he believed the departed states would return if he could convince them that slavery would be legally protected. He was also obsessed with keeping the slaveholding Border States (Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and Delaware) from seceding. Unfortunately for Lincoln, however, the Republican leaders of the new Congress were enthusiastic abolitionists. The author draws a fascinating portrait of Lincoln’s political maneuvering during his first two years in office: on one side he fended off civic, congressional, and even cabinet pressure for immediate abolition; on the other, he faced growing antiwar sentiment, encouraged by the North’s persistent defeats. When the time seemed ripe, he issued the proclamation: a turgid, legalistic document announcing abolition as a strictly military measure (it abolished slavery only in rebel-held territory). Its reception was mostly bad: abolitionists considered it a feeble gesture, and there was widespread anger in the Midwest and Border States that the war was now “for the Negroes” instead of for the Union. Republicans did badly in the 1862 elections. Yet, as time passed, most anti-Negro Northerners accepted emancipation as a harsh but necessary measure to strike at the South, and Lincoln’s faith that the proclamation’s practicality and absence of moral fervor offered the only chance of success was eventually vindicated.

A fine account of a brilliant piece of political strategy.

Pub Date: March 19, 2001

ISBN: 0-670-86754-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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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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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...


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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