An outstanding account of an almost impossibly eventful life.

HERO OF TWO WORLDS

THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE IN THE AGE OF REVOLUTION

A new biography of the giant of both European and American history.

The Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) did not fade away after the American Revolution. Instead, he loomed large on the world stage for decades after the war, and history podcaster Duncan does a fine job of filling out his subject’s life. Among the richest men in France, Lafayette sailed to America in 1777 at age 19 to join the rebellion, seeking mostly adventure. Anxious to smite France’s traditional enemy or simply find work, many Frenchmen did the same, but Lafayette didn’t exaggerate his military experience and made no demands on George Washington, who was charmed. Lafayette became a trusted lieutenant who fought the British, lobbied French leaders to support the rebellion, and entered the pantheon of Revolutionary heroes. Duncan tells this story in the first third of the book. Only 24 when the British surrendered, Lafayette returned to France to participate in efforts to reform the crumbling French economy. As commander general of the National Guard, he was a leading figure early in the French Revolution. When the Terror began in 1792, he fled to Austrian territory to escape arrest but was treated as a dangerous revolutionary and imprisoned for five years. Although freed by Napoleon, Lafayette disapproved of the military leader’s autocracy and retired from politics—until the monarchy’s restoration in 1814, when he again became a voice for liberal ideals. He opposed the Bourbons’ increasingly reactionary policies and supported the 1830 revolution that placed Louis-Philippe on the throne, but Lafayette found him a disappointment. Duncan displays impressive skill in keeping his Lafayette an admirable figure despite painful limitations. More energetic than intelligent, he was not ahead of his time. Popular histories extol his abolitionism, but this developed later; he had no objection to slavery while serving under Washington. His lack of personal ambition was unaccompanied by proficiency in France’s cutthroat politics, so his influence never matched his popularity.

An outstanding account of an almost impossibly eventful life.

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5417-3033-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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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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