A tantalizingly novelistic history lesson.

SISTERS IN RESISTANCE

HOW A GERMAN SPY, A BANKER'S WIFE, AND MUSSOLINI'S DAUGHTER OUTWITTED THE NAZIS

A distinguished cultural studies scholar explores the web of intrigue surrounding the infamous Ciano Diaries.

Before he became famous for condemning the Third Reich and its leaders, Galeazzo Ciano (1903-1944) was better known as Mussolini’s playboy son-in-law and foreign minister. In her latest elegant book of European cultural history, Mazzeo offers a colorful account of Ciano and Mussolini, the affairs and double-crosses that surrounded the diaries, and the courageous women whose efforts saved the manuscripts for posterity. Ciano began keeping diaries about Hitler’s inner circle in 1939, the year he started to question the war in Europe and the Third Reich’s alliance with Italy. Though in the service of a dictator, Ciano realized Mussolini’s involvement with Germany would be Italy’s downfall. So he turned to his journals, where he expressed his virulent disgust with the Third Reich and recorded “the political squabbles” between men like Himmler and Goebbels who “vied for power and influence with Hitler.” By 1943, the foreign minister, who gossiped shamelessly about his diary, had become a liability to the Third Reich. The Germans then sent a beautiful, young, married spy to learn the location of the journals, which Ciano had hidden before using them as collateral for a passage into exile. Little went according to plan. The spy fell in love with Ciano and turned double agent for the Allies. In that role, she developed an unlikely alliance with Ciano’s wife, Edda, and an American socialite to protect as much of Ciano’s manuscript—portions of which still ended up in German hands—for postwar publication in the U.S. Intelligent and compelling, Mazzeo’s probing book delves intriguingly into the “moral thicket” into which a group of strangers found themselves plunged during the long, dark days of World War II.

A tantalizingly novelistic history lesson.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-538-73526-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more