Barely two weeks into 1979. Iran's Shahanshah, King of Kings, Light of the Aryans, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, fled his country—which was then in the final throes of a revolution led by an austere anti-Western theocrat known as Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Following an 18-month hegira that took him through a half dozen nations, the Shah died of cancer. Shawcross (Sideshow, The Quality of Mercy) here offers an engrossing narrative that combines an affecting journal of the deposed monarch's last days with informed perspectives on the events preceding his banishment. By the author's account, the Shah never really understood the reasons for the collapse of his government, which had been both corrupted and sustained by the availability of immense oil revenues. Nor did he grasp that the fidelity of sometime allies was to Iran and its strategic values rather than to his person. At any rate, when the Shah was driven into exile, precious few states were willing to grant him hospitality, let alone asylum. Only Anwar Sadat proved steadfast as the Shah and his dwindling entourage shuttled through Egypt, Morocco, the Bahamas, Mexico, the US, and Panama, then back to a rendezvous with death in Cairo. As a practical matter, countries reluctant to provide the itinerant Shah a haven had legitimate cause for concern. Soon after Washington allowed him entry for medical treatment, Islamic militants occupied the American embassy in Teheran and held the diplomatic personnel trapped there as hostages for well over a year. At the end, the forlorn Shah paid a high personal price for his regime's autocratic misrule and pretensions. When hounded from the Peacock Throne, he was already suffering with the cancer that would ultimately take his life. As Shawcross makes abundantly clear, though, the Shah's treatment at the hands of eminent, ego-tripping physicians of variant nationalities was the medical equivalent of opera bouffe. While he endured his ordeal with stoicism, even grace, the Shah's plight was longer on pathos than tragedy. Shawcross provides more clinical detail than most readers may care to know on precisely what ailed the Shah. This quibble apart, he offers a brilliantly allusive portrait of an overthrown sovereign adrift in a world of failed loyalties.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 1988

ISBN: 067168745X

Page Count: 472

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1988

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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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