A middling biography of a worthy subject.

ELIZA HAMILTON

THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE AND TIMES OF THE WIFE OF ALEXANDER HAMILTON

The life of Mrs. Alexander Hamilton.

When Eliza Schuyler (1757-1854) first met Alexander Hamilton, writes Mazzeo (English/Colby Coll.; Irena's Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto, 2016, etc.), “it was not love at first sight.” But at a second meeting, “the spark between them was instantaneous.” So began the relationship that would give Eliza her most enduring identity as the wife of a dueling Founding Father. The center of this biography is the affair Alexander confessed to having with Maria Reynolds. There has always been debate about the affair: Did it really happen, or did Alexander, who was Secretary of the Treasury at the time, invent the adulterous liaison to distract from more damaging rumors that he was committing insider trading? Despite the scandal, Mazzeo’s Eliza appears stoic, loyal, and canny. Indeed, the author argues compellingly that what we know about Eliza’s character suggests that the affair was a ruse. According to Mazzeo, Eliza stood by her man not because she was weak but because she was committed to protecting her family from the more serious downfall that would occur were Alexander found guilty of fraud. The narrative tends toward mostly charming yet sometimes flat vignettes—e.g., President George Washington sitting in Eliza’s parlor and watching the Hamilton kids play. Describing Eliza and Alexander’s wedding, Mazzeo casually mentions “family slaves…unwrapping a wedding cake,” but she devotes far more attention to the cake than to the Schuylers’ use of enslaved labor. The prose is by turns trite (“Eliza would bury another part of her heart there in the graveyard”) and breathless (“What happened next would change everything in her life and in her marriage and would force Eliza into making an agonizing decision”). The author devotes a scant 53 pages to the half-century after Alexander’s death. Readers may wish for a more detailed treatment of Eliza’s work, as a widow, with New York’s Orphan Asylum Society.

A middling biography of a worthy subject.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6630-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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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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