A vivid portrait of the early years of an author of astounding vision, who predicted many of the horrors of the 20th century.

THE YOUNG H.G. WELLS

CHANGING THE WORLD

The acclaimed literary biographer delivers a compelling portrait of the formative years of the iconic British author.

Tomalin chronicles the early life of H.G. Wells (1866-1946), who drew on his scientific knowledge and prophetic vision to write some of the most thrilling books of his era. Tomalin paints a picture of a young man desperate and determined to succeed. His family endured genteel poverty, and his mother, a housekeeper, determined that his best shot at success was to apprentice as a draper. Fortunately for future readers, Wells hated the position and “made up his mind to behave badly.” While teaching at a boarding school, he was beaten severely in a rugby game and might have died had his resourceful mother not nursed him back to health at the estate where she worked—and where the convalescing young man absorbed the estate’s magnificent library. From there, a series of lucky breaks propelled Wells to fame and eventual fortune. He won a fellowship to study under Thomas Huxley, foremost English scientist of the age, and his scientific grounding became the eventual foundation for his early novels: The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The War of the Worlds. Wells accurately predicted cross-channel air travel, tank warfare, and aerial bombings. His fiction, writes Tomalin, “reads like reporting of things seen touched and heard.” Wells was a renegade, which enlivens the already engaging narrative. An ardent believer in free love, he pursued multiple extramarital affairs, the most notorious of which was a liaison with the daughter of close friends that produced a child. Tomalin covers her subject’s many shortcomings, but she has an empathy for him and a deep understanding of a young man impelled to reach for everything within his grasp. She ends her story with Wells in his early 40s, noting that she was reluctant to part company with this complicated genius. Readers of this excellent biography will agree.

A vivid portrait of the early years of an author of astounding vision, who predicted many of the horrors of the 20th century.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984879-02-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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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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A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

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WILL

One of Hollywood’s biggest stars delivers a memoir of success won through endless, relentless work and self-reckoning.

“My imagination is my gift, and when it merges with my work ethic, I can make money rain from the heavens.” So writes Smith, whose imagination is indeed a thing of wonder—a means of coping with fear, an abusive father with the heart of a drill instructor, and all manner of inner yearnings. The author’s imagination took him from a job bagging ice in Philadelphia to initial success as a partner in the Grammy-winning rap act DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Smith was propelled into stardom thanks to the ministrations of Quincy Jones, who arranged an audition in the middle of his own birthday party, bellowing “No paralysis through analysis!” when Smith begged for time to prepare. The mantra—which Jones intoned 50-odd times during the two hours it took for the Hollywood suits to draw up a contract for the hit comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—is telling, for hidden within this memoir lies a powerful self-help book. For Smith, all of life is a challenge in which one’s feelings are largely immaterial. “I watched my father’s negative emotions seize control of his ample intellect and cause him over and over again to destroy beautiful parts of our family,” he writes, good reason for him to sublimate negativity in the drive to get what he wanted—money, at first, and lots of it, which got him in trouble with the IRS in the early 1990s. Smith, having developed a self-image that cast him as a coward, opines that one’s best life is lived by facing up to the things that hold us back. “I’ve been making a conscious effort to attack all the things that I’m scared of,” he writes, adding, “And this is scary.” It’s a good lesson for any aspiring creative to ponder—though it helps to have Smith’s abundant talent, too.

A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984877-92-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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