Unconvincing as revisionist history but enjoyable for its vivid depiction of several varieties of royal lifestyles—and...

A ROYAL EXPERIMENT

THE PRIVATE LIFE OF KING GEORGE III

Longtime BBC staffer Hadlow debuts with a new take on England’s King George III.

“As George saw it,” writes the author “[a] legacy of amoral, cynical behavior had warped and corrupted the Hanoverians, crippling their effectiveness as rulers and making their private lives miserable.” When he came to the throne in 1760, he vowed to be a better parent than his great-grandfather George I, who had his own son arrested, and a better husband than his flagrantly philandering grandfather George II. In so doing, George III aimed to make the royal family a moral example to the nation. This notion—that the king’s duty was “to act as the conscience of the country,” avoiding day-to-day politicking—is in some ways an early definition of the modern constitutional monarchy, and Hadlow might profitably have pursued it more fully. Her real interest, though, is a detailed account of George’s generally happy marriage to Charlotte, princess of the German duchy Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and the not-so-happy consequences for their 13 children. Little of it seems to have much to do with her thesis. George III had just as poisonous a relationship with his eldest son, who openly supported the political opposition and brandished a lifestyle contrary to his father’s principles, as George’s own father, Frederick, had with George II—for the same reasons. The sad stories of the royal princesses, who either died as spinsters or married late with severely reduced expectations, certainly were linked to George’s insistence that proper family life was firmly secluded from the temptations of court (indeed, from almost any entertainment whatsoever), but none of this adds up to a coherent picture of George’s reign or legacy. Extended forays into the king’s periods of madness, which began in 1788 and finally incapacitated him for good in 1811, also diffuse the narrative focus.

Unconvincing as revisionist history but enjoyable for its vivid depiction of several varieties of royal lifestyles—and plenty of royal gossip.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0805096569

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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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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