An accomplished biography of a minor writer made famous by her times.

THE REAL MRS. MINIVER

A granddaughter brings alive the woman who created Mrs. Miniver, the perfect wife and mother who affirmed British values on the eve of WWII.

Making adroit use of quotes from the author’s letters, autobiography, and other writings, Graham creates a sensitive and full-rounded portrait of a woman whose temperament and interests were often at odds with her milieu. Born in 1901 to parents who later divorced, Joyce Anstruther went to school with the future Queen Mother and was raised like other proper little girls. But her mother, who also wrote, encouraged Joyce in early authorial efforts, published under the pseudonym Jan Struther. In 1923, she married Tony Maxtone Graham, the son of a Scottish laird. They were initially happy and had three children but drifted apart as Tony took up golf while Joyce contributed poems and articles to Punch and other publications. In 1936, she found a new outlet, writing twice a month in the London Times about a fictional middle-aged upper-class wife and mother. Mrs. Miniver, unlike her creator, was happily married, but the columns avoided complacency thanks to sharp insights and vivid metaphors (a rickety old car was “at best a reluctant and treacherous ally, and of late . . . more or less openly, our enemy”), and it struck a chord with English readers. Working with refugees after war broke out, Joyce fell in love with an intellectual young Austrian Jew, Dolf Placzek, and followed him to New York when he got a visa in 1940, ostensibly at the behest of her American publisher. Graham then relates how the collected volume of Mrs. Miniver columns became a bestseller and later a movie, rallying support for war-torn Britain. Jan (as she had called herself ever since she arrived in America) enjoyed the fame, but after her divorce and marriage to Dolf, she became severely depressed and unable to write. She died in 1953.

An accomplished biography of a minor writer made famous by her times.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-312-30826-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2002

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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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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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