Next book

THE REAL MRS. MINIVER

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

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2002

Next book

INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

Next book

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview