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1. Princesses : The Six Daughters
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2. The Professor and the Madman:
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3. Born to Rule : Five Reigning Consorts,
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4. Fever Pitch
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5. Hot Lights, Cold Steel : Life,
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6. Desert Queen : The Extraordinary
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7. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer
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8. The Beatles Anthology
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9. Miss You: The World War II Letters
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10. A Circle of Sisters: Alice Kipling,
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11. Victoria's Daughters
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12. Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible
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13. Nightingales : The Extraordinary
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14. Good-Bye to All That : An Autobiography
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15. Churchill: A Life
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16. Perdita : The Literary, Theatrical,
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17. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer
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18. The Surgeon and the Shepherd:
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19. Fire in the Night : Wingate of
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20. Six Wives of Henry VIII

1. Princesses : The Six Daughters of George III
by FLORA FRASER
list price: $30.00
our price: $19.80
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Asin: 0679451188
Catlog: Book (2005-04-05)
Publisher: Knopf
Sales Rank: 1717
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Dutiful Daughters
Flora Fraser is the next generation in the fine biographical/historical tradition of her mother Lady Antonia Fraser and her late grandmother Elizabeth (Countess of) Longford.Like her forebears, Fraser combines scholarship with an elegant and witty writing style to produce books whichilluminate and engage.

King George III's six daughters tend to get short shrift from historians and biographers who focus on their father, their brothers, and their niece Queen Victoria. The prevailing picture of them is of six mousy women pushed into the background.Fraser has pulled Charlotte, Augusta, Elizabeth, Mary, Sophia, and Amelia out of the shadows and let us see that they had strong personalities and lives of their own.

The six princesses were victims of circumstance even more than most eighteenth century royal women.Ordinarily they would have been married off to men they scarcely knew almost as soon as they reached puberty in order to strengthen Britain's alliances.George III, however, had been horrified by the ill treatment two of his own sisters received at the hands of unloving husbands, and he was determined that his own daughters would not suffer such a fate.Unfortunately his paternal affections did not extend to allowing his daughters to marry Englishmen they loved, and only meant that he turned down overtures from many foreign princes, usually without consulting his daughters at all. Furthermore, as the princesses reached marriageable age the French Revolution and Napoleonic Warsmeant many possible suitors were now the enemies of Britain and thus out of bounds. Finally, George III's bouts of madness/porphyria attacks made him unable to entertain marriage offers, and his wife Queen Charlotte's deep depression over her husband's malady meant that she could not be a matchmaker either.

Bereft of the chance to be proper wives and mothers (the only acceptable role for nearly all women of the period) the princesses lived under their parents' noses well into middle age.They developed literary and artistic interests and were patrons of British charities, and managed little flirtations and dalliances here and there with gentlemen of the court.One of Augusta's liaisons possibly ended in (an illegal) marriage, while Sophia actually produced an illegitimate child.The princesses were dutiful and loving children to their increasingly difficult parents and were supportive siblings to their rackety brothers, who were also denied the chance to legally marry women they loved.

It was only in middle age that some of the daughters married, Charlotte and Elizabeth to German princelings, Mary to an English cousin.Charlotte probably had the most adventurous life, living in Wurttemburg right through several invasions by Napoleon and having to flee for her life at one point (Fraser's description of her life in temporary exile, accompanied by two kangaroos, is among the most amusing of the many anecdotes in the book.)

The fine human qualities of the daughters are well portrayed here.I felt sorriest for Amelia, whose unrequited love for an English officer lasted until her death in 1810.I was impressed with the lovethe daughters showed for their parents and their brothers, and by the love their brothers gave them in return. (Usually the later Hanoverians are depicted asself-indulgent reprobates devoid of any finer qualities.) Finally, the love and regard the daughters had for each other, going to great trouble to visit when one was ill for example, is admirable.

The final years of the daughters were quiet, marked by illness and decline, but I was glad to see that they were not lonely ones, but rather filled with visits from their surviving siblings and other relations and friends.There is a charming photograph in the book of Queen Victoria with two of her children visiting Mary, the last survivor.It is a fitting end to this story of six women who, though related to some of the wealthiest and most powerful people of their time, enjoyed unassuming and generally unremarked upon lives.

5-0 out of 5 stars Six Lives Stories, Well Told
Perhaps best known in the United States as being the British king who wanted the colonies to pay for military protection with things like the tax on tea, George III was King of England from 1760 until 1820. He fathered fifteen children, six of whom were daughters, this is their story.

The King's growing madness is heavily emphasized in this story. And this is fitting because this was a growing part of the lives of the children. Ms. Fraser did a remarkable job with this book. It is based on the extensive letters between Queen Charlotte and the six girls. It is not a typical biography talking of the major events of King George's rule, it is the personal story of this group of women trying to live a semi-normal life amidst life at the court.

It is a fascinating book that looks at a time far removed from ours. ... Read more


2. The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English Dictionary
by Simon Winchester
list price: $13.95
our price: $10.46
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Asin: 006099486X
Catlog: Book (1999-08)
Publisher: Perennial
Sales Rank: 1568
Average Customer Review: 3.81 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The Professor and the Madman, masterfully researched and eloquently written, is an extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary--and literary history. The compilation of the OED, begun in 1857, was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken. As definitions were collected, the overseeing committee, led by Professor James Murray, discovered that one man, Dr. W C. Minor, had submitted more than ten thousand. When the committee insisted on honoring him, a shocking truth came to light: Dr. Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was also an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane.

 

... Read more

Reviews (344)

3-0 out of 5 stars Too little story, too much padding...
The title of this book, "The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary" is far more intriguing than the book itself. Once you get the main idea, that one of the most important contributors to the Oxford English Dictionary was an American living in a mad-house, there's not much more to tell. And yet, Simon Winchester goes on to tell it for another 200 or so pages.

The problem is that what sounds like a fascinating story really isn't. I mean, nothing much happens. Dr. W. C. Minor is delusional, murders a man, and is placed in a mental institution. Dr. Murray begins work on the Oxford Dictionary and makes a public request for volunteers to read through books and find examples of words. Dr. Minor responds to the advertisement from his cell, and is of great help.

Time passes. Eventually, both men die of old age.

End of story.

Simon Winchester tries to fill pages with baseless supposition, along the lines of "Perhaps it was this early experience of watching young maidens bathing in the river that would eventually lead Dr. Minor to the confused mental state that would, ultimately, land him in a mental hospital." After a while, though, one can't help thinking, it would have been nice if this book had an actual story behind it. "Perhaps Dr. Minor had an affair with the widow of the man he murdered. Although there is no evidence to suggest that anything of the kind ever occurred..."

What was interesting was seeing some of the early definitions of the words themselves, but that was a very small part of the book. Ultimately, "The Professor and the Madman" is a bit of fluff. There's enough information to make for a fascinating 5-page article, but it's extended and padded to fill a book.

Only for the very bored...

4-0 out of 5 stars interesting story
This is a marvelous book about the Professor, James Murray, the primary editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, and the Madman, Dr. William C. Minor, one of the Dictionary's most prolific contributors, despite his incarceration in an asylum for the criminally insane after committing a senseless murder provoked by his delusions. The book tells the stories of each of these protagonists as well as the making of the OED itself, and nicely wraps up all of the connections, even to the point of showing what happened to the murdered man's family (whose widow visited Minor regularly
for months).

3-0 out of 5 stars Quick read for philologists, historians, and others.
I like reading the occasional historical fact (rather than historical fiction) "novelette," and The Professor and the Madman was definitely easy to get through. One can learn much from books like this, particularly the way normal people lived their day-to-day lives in a certain time and place.

A few things I liked about this book:

1. One will assuredly learn a thing or two about the English language, in reading it. You will learn some obsolete words, the origin of some words, and just get a refresher of other, more common words. Each chapter begins with a dictionary entry of a particular word, some very normal words, some more exotic words.

2. The parallel lives of the two main characters are interesting to follow. One feels real emotions for both. There are a few shocking moments in the book, which stand out quite a bit in front of the otherwise fairly tame narrative.

3. I grew up with the Oxford English Dictionary, and I always wondered how they compiled all the words. It was great learning about how they did that.

4. The book covers an array of themes and topics, and a fairly diverse geography. Mental illness, civil war, sexual propriety, crime and punishment, one can learn a little bit about a lot of issues in the reading of Simon Winchester's book.

I wouldn't recommend the book to just anyone, though. It can be kind of slow, and sometimes one simply grows tired of bouncing back and forth between the two main characters. It is also fairly short; one sort of wishes for more detail on certain events. In some places, the book reads like a crime/detective novel from the 19th century, in others it is more like a biography. It sort of skips around from one style to the next, almost as if different parts were written at very different times by an author in very different states of mind. Overall, though, this book is a nice, quick read, a good plot, and you will learn a thing or two from it.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Footnote to History
Simon Winchester has written a very unusual book about a very strange series of events during the last century and the dawn of this one. First, we have various literary authorities in England deciding to compile and edit a massive dictionary (eventually it became the Oxford English Dictionary), which took 70 years to finish and filled multiple volumes. Then we have the editor of the project for most of its life discovering that one of his most valuable contributors was in a lunatic asylum because he murdered someone. The story goes from there.

Winchester is a good writer, and he milks this story for everything it's worth. He spends a good deal of time talking about side issues, as is common with this sort of slice-of-life thing. He does a very good job with them, as far as I can tell. I'm pretty knowledgeable with regards to the American Civil War; the author must tell you of the Battle of the Wilderness to explain how the murderer went mad, and he does so skilfully. The writing of the OED and its contents are intelligently discussed and dissected, and the history of dictionaries themselves was fascinating. The other characters, namely the editor of the dictionary itself, James Murray, are interesting and well-drawn.

I enjoyed this book a great deal. It is short, but it's fascinating, and I would recommend it pretty much universally.

4-0 out of 5 stars Fun and Accessible
Being a dictionary enthusiast, especially of the OED, I was excited to come across this book. It reads quickly, and has a wealth of factual information and also some fun speculation. The author uses lots of words which are themselves fun to look up, but also has OED references printed right in. I suggest that any fan of the OED read this book. ... Read more


3. Born to Rule : Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria
by Julia P. Gelardi
list price: $29.95
our price: $19.77
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Asin: 0312324235
Catlog: Book (2005-03-19)
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Sales Rank: 533495
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4. Fever Pitch
by Nick Hornby
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
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Asin: 1573226882
Catlog: Book (1998-03-01)
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Sales Rank: 6680
Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

In the States, Nick Hornby is best know as the author of High Fidelity and About a Boy, two wickedly funny novels about being thirtysomething and going nowhere fast. In Britain he is revered for his status as a fanatical football writer (sorry, fanatical soccer writer), owing to Fever Pitch--which is both an autobiography and a footballing Bible rolled into one. Hornby pinpoints 1968 as his formative year--the year he turned 11, the year his parents separated, and the year his father first took him to watch Arsenal play. The author quickly moved "way beyond fandom" into an extreme obsession that has dominated his life, loves, and relationships. His father had initially hoped that Saturday afternoon matches would draw the two closer together, but instead Hornby became completely besotted with the game at the expense of any conversation: "Football may have provided us with a new medium through which we could communicate, but that was not to say that we used it, or what we chose to say was necessarily positive." Girlfriends also played second fiddle to one ball and 11 men. He fantasizes that even if a girlfriend "went into labor at an impossible moment" he would not be able to help out until after the final whistle.

Fever Pitch is not a typical memoir--there are no chapters, just a series of match reports falling into three time frames (childhood, young adulthood, manhood). While watching the May 2, 1972, Reading v. Arsenal match, it became embarrassingly obvious to the then 15-year-old that his white, suburban, middle-class roots made him a wimp with no sense of identity: "Yorkshire men, Lancastrians, Scots, the Irish, blacks, the rich, the poor, even Americans and Australians have something they can sit in pubs and bars and weep about." But a boy from Maidenhead could only dream of coming from a place with "its own tube station and West Indian community and terrible, insoluble social problems."

Fever Pitch reveals the very special intricacies of British football, which readers new to the game will find astonishing, and which Hornby presents with remarkable humor and honesty--the "unique" chants sung at matches, the cold rain-soaked terraces, giant cans of warm beer, the trains known as football specials carrying fans to and from matches in prisonlike conditions, bottles smashing on the tracks, thousands of policemen waiting in anticipation for the cargo of hooligans. The sport and one team in particular have crept into every aspect of Hornby's life--making him see the world through Arsenal-tinted spectacles. --Naomi Gesinger ... Read more

Reviews (110)

5-0 out of 5 stars Beware What This Book Might Do To You
I've been meaning to write a review of this book for a long time, but since Nick Hornby reawakened in me many of my childhood sports fan obsessions when I read it for the first time in 1999, I've been too busy. Not only did "Fever Pitch" remind me how irrationally and how much I loved my own hometown team (the heartbreaking Boston Red Sox) but he turned me into a fan of English football and his own Arsenal Gunners to the point where I follow them daily on ESPN's soccernet, LISTEN (!?) to them on internet radio broadcasts and have even gone to two games in London over the past two years. It's sick really, and I suppose it's not the kind of thing Hornby would have wanted when he wrote this quintessential memoir of growing up a soccer fan in England, but I've enjoyed it

"Fever Pitch" is an obsessive's tale as much as it is a fan's story, and so should appeal to the same wide audience that enjoys his excellent novels (It was my love for "High Fidelity" that sent me straight to this book). It is a memoir of surprising depth considering how it is organized only by the dates of soccer matches between 1968 and 1991, and it makes perfect sense that Hornby, or any true fan, should see the rest of his life (parents' divorce, his own education, romantic and career trouble) primarily as it relates to the team he spends so much time, money and psychic energy on.

The irony, for me, was finding out after I read "Fever Pitch" for the first time that Arsenal was one of the top teams of the last decade in England, so Hornby at least gets to feel the joy that we Red Sox fans are still waiting for. Sure, we're ecstatic the Pats won the Super Bowl, but our lives will change forever when Boston brings home the World Series. But after "Fever Pitch," I'll remember to laugh like the rest of the world laughs when American sports leagues crown their title-holders "world" champions.

5-0 out of 5 stars For sports fans, obsessives, and everyone else
I assume this book would be a joyous, justifying experience for a devoted fan of any sport - "I'm not alone!" - and I can assure you that it's a fun, educational read for someone who has no interest in any sport. It's a look at the way fanship can be created by, and in turn create, a person's life, and as such should be required reading both for fans themselves and for the people who can't understand them. In other words, if you completely understand why an important win could turn your entire life around, or why you would have to miss your sister's wedding if it coincided with a game, Fever Pitch is for you. And if you don't understand this at all, the book is also for you.

Now, having said that, there are a few problems with this book for Americans who don't know much about football. (You know, soccer, not American rules football.) If you don't know thing one about the game, you can still read the book, but you won't understand big chunks of it. Hornby either never expected this book to be published in America, or he can't imagine an audience that isn't intimately familiar with football argot. (And, having read the book, I'm betting on the latter.) So you'll need either to read a book about football before you read Fever Pitch, or to have on call a person who knows football. As it happens, I had both. I read the decent book The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro before Fever Pitch, so I knew about, for example, relegation and promotion. And I happen to know a person who watches football. And still I didn't get everything; what the heck is the Arsenal offside trap? What was the Ibrox disaster? (Double whammy, since apparently it also happened before I was born.) What's the penalty spot? I don't know, and Hornby didn't take the time to tell me. So - not perhaps the best book to introduce you to football.

Still, this a fascinating book, a book that contains a wealth of self-knowledge for the obsessed and astonishing revelations for everyone else. Read it. If nothing else, you'll learn that the person in your life that you thought was as obsessed with team X as it is possible to be is merely a fly-by-night fan.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby is one of the best football books
Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby is one of the best football books around. But it is about much more than football, it gives a rare glimpse into the psyche of the British football fan. In his book, football is a metaphor for all aspects of life, romance, family, and career. Hornby¡¦s amusing narratives perfectly encapsulate the unique relationship a football fan has with their favorite team. Even as a Manchester United fan I find it fascinating to read about his obsession with and dedication to Arsenal.
At the most superficial level, this book provides a very detail account of Arsenal from the late 60s through the beginning of the 90s, and the increasingly violent behavior by football fans during the late 70s and early 80s, and the negative impact it had on his feelings for the games.
Hornby describes vividly how his life was related to Arsenal's achievements. When Arsenal was doing good, Hornby was doing good. When Arsenal was having an off-season, Hornby fell into depression. It is interesting to observe the development of Hornby's obsession, because it can happen to anyone. With the backdrop of his often witty accounts of Arsenal games, Hornby talks about how his life evolves with his family, his girlfriend, and his students. Football is like a common world language, and Hornby uses it to interact with his students. And watching football with his father was one the highlights of his childhood.
Every game has an analogy in life for the football fan. For Hornby, a tight game ending in defeat is a painful reminder of a break with his girlfriend.
While this obsession with football is almost innate, sometimes Hornby felt immature, especially when he was unable to control his overwhelming passion for the game in front of his students.
In humorous pros Hornby highlights how football and life come together on the pitch and is definitely worthy of reading.

4-0 out of 5 stars black and white and read all over
This is a cool book, and a very good book, but a tiny little "je ne sais quoi" keeps me from giving it that last and final fifth star.

To summarize the book superficially in a sentence, it's an autobiographical retelling, in a very witty first-person voice, of the author's (London journalist Nick Hornby) lifelong love of soccer and his passion for the English pro soccer team Arsenal (which plays in London). Thrown in are side stories about his boyhood, his relationship with his parents, and his posse of friends, love interests, and workmates who either do or don't share his love of the sport.

One problem for North Americans is that this is a truly English book, in that it contains tons of references to little villages in England, little UK customs, judgments and descriptions of London neighborhoods, etc., that left me feeling like a Yankee hick who'd never left the trailer park. Indeed, that is my problem and not the author's, but North Americans who don't know English culture well will feel lost at times.

Another problem is that the book, like the TV show "Seinfeld," isn't really about anything. Sure, there's a lot of chatter about soccer, but not in any sort of methodical or educative way. It's basically a willfully disorganized diary about 20 years in the life of a clever, witty Englishman (from about age 10 to about age 30) who allows soccer to dominate his worldview and, alas, his whole life. It comes down to the amusing musings of a 30-something Londoner, which makes the book fascinating but not monumental.

The obsession with soccer is the strength and the weakness of the work. If you want to learn about English pro soccer, you will be disappointed. If you want to learn first-hand, from a very imaginative and clever soul, about what it was like for one particular person to grow up soccer-mad in southeastern England the 1970's and 1980's and how it impacted the rest of his life, then this is the book for you.

I'm a big fan of Nick Hornby, and a better book of his, and a better "starter book" for him, is "High Fidelity."

2-0 out of 5 stars Painfully, painfully boring
This book was extremely pointless. Since each entry is a memory, they are written like them so they don't have an insteresting story-telling narrative. Also, some of the entries were just how the game was played and who won, with absolutely nothing interesting to say. And that for 300 pages, completely redundant. This book has no beginning, middle, or end. Just entry after entry of complete pointlessness. Now, it may be because I am not interested in sports, but this is just a football (soccor) journal and nothing more. Hornby was able to shove in a little bit of angst and childhood problems, but it is not nearly significant enough to keep the reader interested.

Though the book had some very funny parts, it doesn't make up for the ennui I experienced while reading this book. You know, they made a movie out a this.....HOW?!! It barely works as a piece of fiction or reference book...but a movie?! Jesus. I'm sorry but this was one of the most boring books I've ever read. ... Read more


5. Hot Lights, Cold Steel : Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon's First Years
by Michael J. Collins
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
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Asin: 0312337787
Catlog: Book (2005-02-01)
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Sales Rank: 354129
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Book Description

When Michael Collins decides to become a surgeon, he is totally unprepared for the chaotic life of a resident at a major hospital.A natural overachiever, Collins' success, in college and medical school led to a surgical residency at one of the most respected medical centers in the world, the famed Mayo Clinic.But compared to his fellow residents Collins feels inadequate and unprepared.All too soon, the euphoria of beginning his career as an orthopedic resident gives way to the feeling he is a counterfeit, an imposter who has infiltrated a society of brilliant surgeons.

This story of Collins' four-year surgical residency traces his rise from an eager but clueless first-year resident to accomplished Chief Resident in his final year.With unparalleled humor, he recounts the disparity between people's perceptions of a doctor's glamorous life and the real thing: a succession of run down cars that are towed to the junk yard, long weekends moonlighting at rural hospitals, a family that grows larger every year, and a laughable income.

Collins' good nature helps him over some of the rough spots but cannot spare him the harsh reality of a doctor's life. Every day he is confronted with decisions that will change people's lives-or end them-forever.A young boy's leg is mangled by a tractor: risk the boy's life to save his leg, or amputate immediately?A woman diagnosed with bone cancer injures her hip: go through a painful hip operation even though she has only months to live?Like a jolt to the system, he is faced with the reality of suffering and death as he struggles to reconcile his idealism and aspiration to heal with the recognition of his own limitations and imperfections.

Unflinching and deeply engaging, Hot Lights, Cold Steel is a humane and passionate reminder that doctors are people too.This is a gripping memoir, at times devastating, others triumphant, but always compulsively readable.
... Read more

6. Desert Queen : The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally ofLawrence of Arabia
by JANET WALLACH
list price: $15.95
our price: $10.85
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Asin: 0385495757
Catlog: Book (1999-07-20)
Publisher: Anchor
Sales Rank: 2227
Average Customer Review: 3.29 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Turning her back on her privileged life in Victorian England, Gertrude Bell (1868-1926), fired by her innate curiosity, journeyed the world and became fascinated with all things Arab. Traveling the length and breadth of the Arab region, armed with a love for its language and its people, she not only produced several enormously popular books based on her experiences but became instrumental to the British foreign office. When World War I erupted, and the British needed the loyalty of the Arab leaders, it was Gertrude Bell's work and connections that helped provided the brain for T. E. Lawrence's military brawn. After the war she participated in both the Paris and Cairo conferences, played a major role in creating the modern Middle East, and was generally considered the most powerful woman in the British Empire.

In this incident-packed biography, Janet Wallach reveals a woman whose achievements and independent spirit were especially remarkable for her times, and who brought the same passion and intensity to her explorations as she did to her rich romantic life. Too long eclipsed by Lawrence's fame, Gertrude Bell emerges in this first major biography as a woman whose accomplishments rank as crucial to world history (especially in light of the continuing geopolitical importance of the Middle East) and whose life was a grand adventure. ... Read more

Reviews (28)

2-0 out of 5 stars A tedious rendering of an interesting life
Gertrude Bell was a fascinating woman, doing things that women just didn't do in the early part of this century: meeting Arabian royalty (and bandits and terrorists as well), going places uncharted by European men or women, and becoming something of a heroine to many Arabs of high and low rank. But this book, though it starts off well, becomes rough going fairly quickly. It feels as if Wallach quotes extensively from Bell's letters simply because she had access to them, not because they were always interesting or enlightening (though some were). There is lots of repetition (we must hear about once every two or three pages that she drank "bitter coffee"; the phrase "Young Turks" is defined three times, each time slightly differently, inside of about one hundred pages) and inexact detailing (three fairly detailed maps of the Middle East still leave out a number of sites important to the events of the book). By the end, when Bell was doing her most important political work in the construction of modern-day Iraq, I was skimming over the thick accrual of tedious detail that doesn't really bring Bell to life in the way she deserves.

5-0 out of 5 stars A sweeping biography of a woman ahead of her time
A sweeping, fascinating tale of a woman ahead of her time. This will written, well researched biography was hard to put down. Gertrude Bell herself, a contemporary of Lawrence of Arabia, was a complex, brilliant woman whose life was peppered with many tragedies as well as adventures. Diminutive in size, she scaled mountains, camped in the desert and broke bread with tribal chiefs. She felt more at ease in the Middle East than her own homeland of England, where Victorian women were ruled by social confines. Perhaps it was because of her sex that Arabians allowed her more carte blanche. In a countryland which shuts its women off like trophies, Bell was often treated more like a preistess. She had the audacity to be ultimately feminine and intelligent at the same time, which gave her a special status on foreign soil. Professionally, Bell triumphed, and was accepted as an authority on the Middle East. Her love life, however, as well as relationships with her own family, fell short. If you want to entreat yourself to an adventure of a female "Indiana Jones", I recommend this book. Even if you don't care for Gertrude Bell's character, you will not forget her.

2-0 out of 5 stars A somewhat lame retelling of an extraordinary life
As the crisis in the Middle East continues, I find myself trying to explore how we got here. That search lead me to "Desert Queen" and the story of Gertrude Bell. I had heard of Bell of course. She pops us in a few places in TE Lawrence's "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom" and she was Churchill's great protagonist at the Cairo Conference. But she lived an extraordinary life, of which her service to the British Empire in the First World War and beyond was only a part. Yes, she was the only female political officer of the war. But before that she journeyed throughout Mesopotamia, the Levant and Arabia, often with only a small group of guides.

The book is well researched and describes her travels. Yet, you feel as if there is something missing. The author spends a lot of time and print discussing Bell's failed love life, and what she was wearing to the conferences and meetings at times seems more important than the meetings themselves. Yes, Bell was a product of her age. She was a militant ANTI-Suffragette, longed desperately for a husband and family, and was, at heart, a spoilt girl of the upper class, who even during the War in Iraq and the anti-British uprisings afterward (sound familiar), was seemingly more concerned about having the latest fashions delivered to her. Given the parallels between the current crisis in Iraq and the British imperial experience, this book could have been even more relevant but the author's focus on Bell's "feminine side" detracted from the essential story.

Still, the book rights a great wrong, and hopefully will rekindle interest in Gertrude Bell's career.

5-0 out of 5 stars A woman beyond her time
This was one of the most fascinating women of her time. Bold, beautiful, and smart. She went where most men wouldn't dare. This book is not only a tribute to Gertrude Bell, but a great insight into the history of Iraq,and the middle east, the people and, why they may not ever be a democracy.

3-0 out of 5 stars Hard to believe it is true
I agree with other reviewers that the book has some serious stylistic weaknesses. A bit of editing would help the first few chapters. However, as an introduction to the conplicated and confusing history of the area, I found it to be painlessly clarifying. The maps in the front were especially helpful.

I can hardly believe that Gertrude Bell is real. It was a thrill to read about a true adventurer that dared the absurd.That she had such tenacity, dedication to the scholarly, fearlessness, and pluck makes this an especially good book for young women to read. ... Read more


7. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932
by William Manchester
list price: $50.00
our price: $33.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316545031
Catlog: Book (1983-05-30)
Publisher: Little, Brown
Sales Rank: 10491
Average Customer Review: 4.98 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Part One Of Two Parts

It is hard to imagine anything new about Churchill. But in this life of the young lion, William Manchester brings us fresh encounters and anecdotes. Alive with examples of Churchill's early powers, THE LAST LION entertains and instructs.

"Manchester is not only master of detail, but also of `the big picture.'...I daresay most Americans reading THE LAST LION will relish it immensely." (National Review) ... Read more

Reviews (48)

5-0 out of 5 stars Volume 1 of the life of Winston Spencer Churchill
"The Last Lion: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932," is the first of William Manchester's projected three-volume biography of Winston Spencer Churchill. I found it a superbly crafted, supremely well researched account of the first 58 years of the life of the 20th century's greatest statesman. With wit and candor, Manchester chronicles Churchill from his earliest days as the neglected and troublesome first child of Lord Randolph Churchill and his American-born wife, Jennie, to his entry into the political "wilderness" over home rule in India in 1932. Manchester's portrait of his subject is balanced and objective; we see Churchill at his finest: a courageous (almost to the point of foolhardiness) army officer, and later a gifted Member of Parliament who became one of the youngest Cabinet ministers in British history. We also see him at his worst: a Cabinet minister with appalling political judgment at times, quick to meddle in other ministers' affairs while neglecting his own, and with an uncanny ability to alienate not only his political foes, but almost all his political allies as well.

In addition to a wonderfully written chronology of Churchill's life, Manchester provides an overview of the times in which Churchill lived. I was fascinated by the author's account of Victorian England -- its culture, its mores, and its view of itself in the world. The sections which describe Churchill's times make highly entertaining and absorbing reading by themselves.

"The Last Lion: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932," clearly shows why William Manchester is one of the pre-eminent biographers at work today. The book is written with obviously meticulous scholarship, insightful analysis, and crisp, sparkling prose; I have yet to find a better account of Churchill's life. Now, if only Mr. Manchester would give us that third volume . . .

5-0 out of 5 stars Churchill Saves the World
Having read Manchester's incomparable biography of Winston Churchill, one is struck by the supernatural, almost superhuman aspect of his subject. Churchill is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest politicians of the twentieth century -- or as Manchester says, The greatest nineteenth century politician who remained to challenge his sinister twentieth century counterparts.

This first novel of his early years show the struggle, his toil, his stolen successes, his vision ignored or supplanted by lesser men. Reviewing the life and decisions of Churchill reveal a striking fact -- he was almost never wrong. A casual reader might attribute this to "common sense", but those who drink history more deeply are less likely to accept such a simple view. To one living at the time, Hitler had many facets of his leadership that would attract many modern readers -- he was the first leader of a major nation to embrace enviornmentalist policies, the first to embrace technological development as a means to improving national utility, and most importantly the only leader to move his nation out of the great depression. It is a measure of Churchill's greatness that he saw through all of these things, and was the only - literally the only - major political figure in the world to strongly and resolutely attack the emergence of the German National Socialist Movement before, during, and after its rise to power. Prior to reading Manchester's bio, I had assumed that Churchill was in some way right for the wrong reasons, as so often occurs in history, and his subsequent election as Prime Minister was the result of his record, regardless of his reasons. I was wrong.

Manchester shows us that Churchill got it almost exactly right: conservative enough to defend his principles, yet liberal enough to innovate and excel at innovation throughout his carreer. Unshakably rooted in his beliefs, and sincerely willing to sacrifice his self interest to them (a trait which, I confess, I have seen no more than once or twice in historical oand modern individuals), he simultaneously was able to marry this rocklike character with an amazing ability to innovate: technologically, strategically, and politically. Manchester does him service by this excellent bio, to which my only question is, when is the last installment due

5-0 out of 5 stars The Man of the Century
Manchester's work is extraordinary and a journey into the making of a great leader of the world that was the 20th century.

Churchill was a man of vision and he was molded in his early years. Manchester makes a case for his growth coming in the Boar War period.

There is a beginning of greatness. Manchester introduces us to the world that formed this great man.

4-0 out of 5 stars Understand the most Remarkable Man of the 20th Century
This is an excellent book on the first half of the life of a truly exceptional man. Mr Manchester's book deals with Winston's early life and his rise to power and fame. I particularly liked the vignettes about life at the turn of the century; the social situation, the class struggle, the morals of the upper and the working classes.

Just reading it makes you feel somehow inadequate against the intellectual brilliance, courage and sheer energy of the subject.

It would have merited a full five star rating but for two faults. It should have been shorter. It as if every single little titbit of information had to be written out in full, rather than filtered through the critical intellect that Mr Manchester undoubtedly possesses. Instead, he quotes too many letters, reports and speeches in full when his job as a biographer was to summarise them.

The second fault was Mr Manchester's tendency to lionise his subject. Brilliant he may have been, but a bit more acknowledgement of Winston's faults would have made him more human and reachable.

But this is nitpicking. Overall the book is a good read on a subject well worth reading about.

5-0 out of 5 stars Read both books - Best history/biography ever!
Many lists say the best historical biography is "Disraeli" by Blake. This is better. Way better.

The only author that has ever kept me glued to a book as much as Manchester's is Michael Crichton. It's odd to compare a biography to Jurassic Park, but Manchester makes history come alive. He spends a lot of time and care setting the "culture" in a way that is not pedantic or boring (unlike some Civil War histories I've read!). And then he builds on Churchill's stories in a way that makes you feel like you're in Churchill's shoes, with the same issues and challenges.

Unfortunately, there is no Volume 3 about the war years. Manchester's illness prevented this. What a sad loss to history.

Read Vol 1 and 2. You won't regret it. ... Read more


8. The Beatles Anthology
by Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, John Lennon
list price: $60.00
our price: $37.80
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0811826848
Catlog: Book (2000-10-05)
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Sales Rank: 10012
Average Customer Review: 4.77 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Created with their full cooperation, The Beatles Anthology is, in effect, The Beatles' autobiography. Like their music, which has been a part of so many of our lives, this landmark release is warm, frank, funny, poignant and bold. At last, here is The Beatles' own story. Each page is brimming with personal stories and rare, vintage images. Includes over 340,000 words and over 1300 images, including unseen photographs and personal memorabilia. ... Read more

Reviews (203)

5-0 out of 5 stars Fabulous!
I was going to give this book 4 stars, until half-way through I was struck by the pure genius of it all. Why? It's like a cover song - when someone else plays a Beatles song, does it ever really sound as good as the original? Rarely. "Anthology" is a huge tome of a book comprised entirely of interviews and snippets from the Fab Four themselves, with a very few extras from their manager, studio producer, etc. It seems like a coffee table book, but it certainly isn't - over 350 large pages of fine print.

The reason why this book ALMOST got 4 stars is because of the inherent nature of a book made entirely of quotes - natural conversation doesn't translate well onto the printed page, especially when so many people are quoted from different periods in their lives. The book never says "In 1964, the Beatles recorded Rubber Soul" or anything like that. Instead, the quotes gradually roll around to telling you, until you realize "Oh, we're in the studio again". Often this book is disjointed and hard to follow, especially if you don't anything about the Beatles.

However, few people know nothing about the Beatles! After the first 30 pages, you get used to the style of presentation, and later on you realize the beauty of it all - these boys are down-right inspiring. Worked in with all the tours and stories and pranks and bad rumors and other nonsense are wonderful descriptions of their music and how it was written, what its inspiration was, and the trials that were faced to create it. The Beatles didn't idolize themselves, not like their fans do, so the words just flow out effortlessly and pure, just like their music did. This was their lives, no big deal, this is what they did. The creativity is catchy.

If you are a die-hard Beatles historian, I'm positive that nothing new is said in this book. There is no "myth-making" in these pages - their fights and disagreements are very bluntly presented - but you can see a "No Big Deal" kind of attitude formed. It's is only natural, the survivors are turning 60, after all. Like the video series and the CDs, this version of Anthology is a warm revisit of a wonderful little rock'n'roll band. Check it out.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Definitive Chronicle At Last
Hundreds of books have been written about The Beatles, but it is
crushingly obvious when reading this Anthology volume that by far the
best one would naturally come from the bandmembers themselves. [The
price] seems like an incredible bargain considering the size and
quality of this work, which covers the years 1940 (the birth of Ringo
and John) to the breakup in 1970. At 368 coffee-table sized pages
it's already huge, but the small print makes it almost double that
size.

The book would be worth it just for the photos alone, which
are beautifully reprinted--many from the early years are actually in
color--chronicling dozens of previously unpublished, intimate moments
taken straight from the group's personal archives. But what really
makes this one essential is the text itself, which is taken from
interviews conducted with Paul, George and Ringo in the 90s and an
exhaustive compilation of Lennon quotes from all points in his life (I
recognized many, but there were also some I've never seen before).
Even after the dozens upon dozens of biographies which have recounted
the group's earth-shattering tale ad nauseum, you feel like you're
reading it for the first time. All four bandmembers speak with a
thousand times more wit, frankness and detail than all of their
previous biographers combined; in fact, they manage to offer up
juicier tales, and more interesting spins on already known events,
than anything you've read before even in the most gossipy bios--and
you get it this time knowing that it's honest (you know it's honest
when you hear conflicting memories about certain events!).

"Anthology" is especially revealing when it comes to the
childhoods and Hamburg era: you get to hear about the first time
George got laid (right in front of the other three bandmembers!), or
when Ringo was a member of the Dingle gang, or what they did at
teenage parties. The detail is so thorough and vividly recalled for
the early years (and butressed by the photos) that you feel like
you're living it as it actually happened. No stone is left unturned
about the famous years, either: George and Ringo philosophize about
their first LSD trips and the meaning of "Tomorrow Never
Knows", the Maharishi controversy is finally put to rest (hint:
he never made a pass at anybody), and new insight is shed on the
evolution of the friendships between John and the other three. More
is made about the breakup than was on the "Anthology"
videos, including Yoko's presence and the business hassles, as well as
the making of "Abbey Road". Finally, all of this is told
with such an elegant sense of Beatle humor that even the heaviest
moments are a joy to read. Also included are excerpts from Stu
Sutcliffe and Brian Epstein's personal diaries. With this volume now
finally released, the only other essential Beatle books to get are
Lewishon's "Beatles Chronicle" and Miles' "The Beatles:
A Diary", both of which give exact reference dates and
descriptions for every live show, radio, recording and filming session
(as well as more great photos).

5-0 out of 5 stars Magical mystery tour through the Beatles' career
This book purports to tell the Beatles's story in their own words (though augmented by memories from people close to them like Brian Epstein, producer George Martin, roadies Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans, and publicist Derek Taylor), and does the job quite well.

I would estimate that at least 80% of the information contained in this book is already old hat for die-hard Beatlemaniacs who have memorized Mark Lewisohn's "Complete Beatles Chronicle" and read every Beatle book out there. But it's not so much the substance of the information as the way in which it is told--it's great to be able read about these events from the Beatles' point of view, even as seen through the prism of the thirty to forty years that have passed. And I am grateful that George was able to participate in the whole Anthology project before his untimely death in 2001.

The modern-day comments from Paul, George, and Ringo were apparently taken from the interviews from the Beatles Anthology circa 94-95 (if you watch the entire video/DVD and compare it to the text in the book it's pretty obvious). Hard-core fans will be able to recognize where many of the other quotes came from, although they aren't sourced, unfortunately--after each such quote there's merely a superscript such as "64" or "70" showing the year it was said, with no reference to the publication or interview it was taken from. That said, the editors had an incredible job piecing this thing together; they could almost be listed as co-writers!

There's a great deal of eye-candy (photographs, memos, handwritten notes, drawings, etc.), which are fascinating to look at. Sometimes, though, the arrangement of text, typeface, and photographs on the page seems rather random and thrown together, and even can make it difficult to read (for example, page 177, which tells about George and John's first LSD trip is printed on a background of garish red with magenta and orange text that all but obliterates the actual text). But it's never dull.

Despite the fact that it may be a bit of a chore to read, since it's large and heavy (even in paperback), it is a joy to read and I heartily recommend it to all Beatle fans.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Beatles!
This book transcends its overt purpose of being an anthology of the Beatles.

Anyone who loves the music the Beatles gave us will find much rewarding material here. Those who want to know about how success can be accomplished in popular music will be riveted. Those who like to look back on popular culture in times past will have a happy trip. If you just love exciting photography, there is much to attract you to this volume. I found myself singing the Beatles' songs to myself as I read the text and looked at the illustrations. That was the best part!

To me, the most thought-provoking part of this book was its rags-to-genius quality. The Beatles were unlikely candidates to become leading musical innovators. Most of them were so poor that their families lacked indoor bathrooms when they were growing up. None of them could read music. The combined number of music lessons they had was less than ten in total. They could not afford musical instruments. Their families could not afford to subsidize their careers. Yet they were observant about the new, in contact with what moved their hearts, listened intently for better music, and worked with a never-ending frenzy to fulfill their passion for the music. It's vastly more heartwarming and fascinating than any rags-to-riches story ever can be.

I had never understood John Lennon's complaints about the "packaged, predictable" Beatles until I read in this book about the type of band they were while evolving their style. Particularly in the Hamburg gigs, they were more like a jazz combo that played rock and roll. The music was free form, and they stretched some songs into being as long as an hour and a half.

In fact, their commercial success was a tremendous tragedy for their artistic success because they were probably at the edge of developing a whole new musical genre that would have become the dominant one today. I'm sorry it never happened. I feel even more sorry for them, in realizing that they knew what they lost and must feel it very deeply.

I was also moved by the story of their tempestuous friendship. These guys went through tremendous stresses, strains, and deprivations together. They fought, they disagreed, they slugged each other, and they appreciated each other. Yet, there was a strong enough pull towards each other that allowed the group to continue through its amazing journey, despite the difficulties. To have had such friendships, even if they are eventually lost, must be an amazing experience. Few will know this closeness in their lives.

I came away from this book with a new appreciation for the Beatles. Before this book, the Beatles were all about (for me) how they sounded and looked, and how I reacted to that. Now, I see them as being role models for important aspects of human experience that we should all appreciate.

Before closing, I do have two words of caution. This book is very open about the major and minor vices of life. As such, this book could make the wrong impression on adolescents. They don't need too many new ideas about how to rebel, and this book could be read that way. That's not what the Beatles were doing, but a 13 year old could see it that way.

Second, as revealing as the book is, more is ultimately still hidden below the surface than is revealed. These young men knew a lot of pain, and that pain was an important source of their brilliance. Don't be offended that they did not share more. It was probably very painful to share as much as they did.

I would like to give the editors major credit for developing a successful dialogue style in the book that included quotes from John Lennon. It must have been the dickens to read through all of his many quotes, and to weave them into material comparable to what can be developed in a simple interview where the others could be aware of what each other said.

"Take a sad song, and make it better."

4-0 out of 5 stars Excellent production.
I thought the book was excellently produced, but would have liked more input from non-Beatles and from sacked drummers (nudge nudge wink wink). For instance, Lennon and McCartney recount the time they finished up "I Wanna Be Your Man" for the Rolling Stones; I'd like to have had a word from Mick Jagger and Keith Richards about that experience as well.

To the reviewer who complained that they were still slamming Pete Best's drumming ability and mental acuity, or lack thereof, forty years on--that's not strictly true. Pretty much all the statements in the book on that subject are at least 35 years old. But I'd still like to have seen some more input from Pete, as well as a page or two regarding his post
Beatles musical career. He did actually have one, and did fairly well for a couple of years. But, as this book presents him, he was basically a non-entity, just the last in a long line of drummers who occupied the Beatles' drum stool before Ringo came along.

There have been some conflicting reports on the musical skills of the various members of the band, ca. 1962. McCartney's own brother said of the group at that time, none of them was a rocket scientist, musically speaking, and it could have been any one of them fate could have chosen to go. Granted that statement was a bit disingenuous in retrospect, but wrt Pete Best it seems as if there was always an official policy in the Beatles' organization to purge his memory. For instance, when the BBC tapes were put on CD, the first two shows, with Pete Best, were omitted due to problems with the 'sound quality'. I've heard some of those performances, and the sound was fine. The drumming wasn't fantastic, but seemed more than adequate in the context. ... Read more


9. Miss You: The World War II Letters of Barbara Wooddall Taylor and Charles E. Taylor
by Judy Barrett Litoff, David C. Smith, Barbara Woodall Taylor, C Taylor, Charles E. Taylor
list price: $29.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0820311456
Catlog: Book (1990-04-01)
Publisher: Univ of Georgia Pr
Sales Rank: 722850
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10. A Circle of Sisters: Alice Kipling, Georgiana Burne Jones, Agnes Poynter, and Louisa Baldwin
by Judith Flanders
list price: $27.95
our price: $19.01
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0393052109
Catlog: Book (2005-03-30)
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Sales Rank: 41139
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Book Description

"Drive[s] a four-horse chariot through the nineteenth century....I have enjoyed this book more than I can say."—John Julius Norwich

The Macdonald sisters—Alice, Georgiana, Agnes and Louisa-started life in the teeming ranks of the lower-middle classes, denied the advantages of education and the expectation of social advancement. Yet as wives and mothers they would connect a famous painter, a president of the Royal Academy, a prime minister, and the uncrowned poet laureate of the Empire. Georgiana and Agnes married, respectively, the pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones and the arts administrator Edward Poynter; Louisa gave birth to future prime minister Stanley Baldwin, and Alice was mother to Rudyard Kipling. A Circle of Sisters brings to life four women living at a privileged moment in history. Their progress from obscurity to imperial grandeur indicates the vitality of 19th-century Britain: a society abundant with possibility. From their homes in India and England, the sisters formed a network that, through the triumphs and tragedies of their families and the Empire, uniquely endured. 16 pages of illustrations. ... Read more


11. Victoria's Daughters
by Jerrold M. Packard
list price: $15.95
our price: $11.16
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312244967
Catlog: Book (1999-12-23)
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Sales Rank: 3921
Average Customer Review: 4.18 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Five women who shared one of the most extraordinary and privileged sisterhoods of all time...

Vicky, Alice, Helena, Louise, and Beatrice were historically unique sisters, born to a sovereign who ruled over a quarter of the earth's people and who gave her name to an era: Queen Victoria. Two of these princesses would themselves produce children of immense consequence. All five would face the social restrictions and familial machinations borne by ninetheenth-century women of far less exalted class.

Researched at the houses and palaces of its five subjects-- in London, Scotland, Berlin, Darmstadt, and Ottawa-- Victoria's Daughters examines a generation of royal women who were dominated by their mother, married off as much for political advantage as for love, and passed over entirely when their brother Bertie ascended to the throne. Packard, an experienced biographer whose last book chronicled Victoria's final days, provides valuable insights into their complex, oft-tragic lives as scions of Europe's most influential dynasty, and daughters of their own very troubled times.
... Read more

Reviews (33)

5-0 out of 5 stars a fantastic way to learn more about history
This was a fantastic way to learn more about the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. I have to admit that although I have a master's degree in history, my major focus has always been ancient history, particularly ancient Near Eastern history (I was one of those people who felt that "modern history" meant everything after 1200 BC.--yes, BC.). Only just lately have I begun to follow up intriguing trails through other periods. Some time ago, I began to realize that one could really gain incredible insight into the events of an era by studying peripherals: the history of countries peripheral to the main stage, side issues like trade, crafts, and long distance contacts, and the women and others behind the main historical figures, etc. Jerrold Packard's book Victoria's Daughters seemed to be just the book I needed to learn about a period in time about which I knew next to nothing, the late 19th Century.

At first it seemed as though the book would be more about Queen Victoria herself than about her daughters. As I read on, though, I realized that the oddity of Victoria's succession to the throne had much to do with the lives of her daughters, as did her early life and her own upbringing. Furthermore, it is against her long life and protracted reign that not only the events in her daughters' lives were measured and chronicled but those of most of the lives of the world's population. There was a reason that most of the 19th Century was labeled "the Victorian era!"

In the past I had given very little thought about the connections that existed throughout European history or about what actually brought about the events that occurred during the turn of the century. I knew of course that the Tsarina of Russia was "Victoria's granddaughter" and a "Prussian princess," but I hardly gave thought to what that really meant. Nicholas and Alexandra were charismatic historical figures in their own right. They were a fairy tale couple, much in love, with a cozy little family living the life of a Russian folktale, and their poetic tale came to a tragic but colorful and certainly very memorable finish. End of story, or so it seemed to me. One knows about World War I, I suppose, and all the people that died in trenches of disease and exposure and mustard gas and enemy fire. One has heard of Bismark and Wilhelm II and Lord Mountbattan, but they're all just interesting names, names one memorizes to answer our world history tests, right? Not when one reads Mr. Packard's story of the children of Queen Victoria.

Each of the daughters, Victoria, Alice, Helena, Louise, and Beatrice had a unique relationship with their mother. Because of whom and what she was, Victoria's was not a particularly warm and maternal presence in their lives. When she was a presence at all, she was distant, self-centered, imperious, and controlling. Unfortunately some of this early relationship translated into problems with parent-child interactions when the girls had children of their own. Lest anyone think that women do not have an impact on the course of history because they don't lead armies into battle--often anyway--one only need read about the relationships between some of these women and their children. That between Victoria, "Vicky," and her eldest son, Willy--later Wilhelm II--will quickly disabuse one of the notion.

Furthermore, the five girls were married into some of the key families of Europe. The titles of each and their in-laws read like a who's who of European nobility, and their sons and daughters became kings, queens, and dukes, many of whom ended up on opposite sides of wars in Europe during the late 19th and early 20th century. The tangled web of personal relationships, treaties, and ambitions ultimately brought about World War I.

I was especially entranced with the intimate detail woven into the stories of each of the women. The author mined diaries, extensive family correspondence, and biographies written about each to create very personal characterizations. The reader becomes as engaged in the story of their lives as in those of fictional characters; one just does feels connected.

FOR THOSE WRITING PAPERS: in history, anthropology, political science, sociology. One might use this book to discuss the limitations of women of the upper classes at the time and their effects on history. One might look at individuals like Alice, who became a follower of the practices of Florence Nightengale, or her sister Louise, who was an accomplished and professional sculptor, who attempted to break out of the social mold of the time to create an identity and existence of their own. What types of role models did they make for others? What changes did they bring about in society? How did they set the stage for our own era? Might the events of WWI been less likely to have happened if the relationships between countries had been based on less personal grounds? Did the relationships between these women and their children and spouses affect the course of events significantly? Or would they have happened anyway? Would they have happened for the same reasons? How was this era a transitional time?

3-0 out of 5 stars Now, which daughter was that??
This is a very readable and interesting book. I think it is one of the few sources in print for information about Queen Victoria's daughters. However, the way the author presents the information can get confusing to the reader. Packard goes from talking about one daughter to the next in the same chapter. This is especially confusing when there is a reference mentioned from earlier in the book. I found myself having to check which daughter I was reading about and looking back at times to remember and item or two. Another slight problem was the author seeming to judge past attitudes and customs by today's standards. I also question some of the facts presented particulary about Queen Victoria. Some disagree with the many other things I have read about this grand lady. Other than these things, I did enjoy the book. I recommend it especially since it is one of the few sources out there.

5-0 out of 5 stars Loved It!
I'm an avid reader of royal biographies. I prefer learning about how people lived the personal side of their lives. Of course, all of these people (given their positions) had some role in politics of the time. I never paid much attention to that aspect and only now realize what a mistake that was.

This book is wonderful simply for it's attention to royal women (some who are often overlooked by other authors) and especially for it's coverage of the family dynamics. But, I also appreciated the way the author described each family member's involvement in wide-reaching European politics. This information is so well weaved into the "story" of their lives, that I was not at all put-off (bored) by it as I usually am. I was quite surprised to finally understand the unification of Germany, the role of landgraves and all those little principalities, and the formation of Canada. Granted, a book of this scope can only touch the surface of these issues. Still, I found it entertaining and elightening.

1-0 out of 5 stars Lackluster writing with plenty of mistakes
This is one book on the Queen and her daughters I would pass on. Packard failed to do any proper research on the princesses and it shows in several huge mistakes committed by the author. I am glad I bought this used as it would have been a waste of my money if I bought it brand new and only to see what a huge dissappoint it was (and is).

5-0 out of 5 stars Victoria's Daughters
This is totally captivating...these very priviledged daughters grew into socially active adults. Very interesting read. ... Read more


12. Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
by Alfred Lansing
list price: $13.95
our price: $10.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 078670621X
Catlog: Book (1999-03-01)
Publisher: Carroll & Graf Publishers
Sales Rank: 1174
Average Customer Review: 4.79 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

'A thrilling reading experience! One of the greatest adventure stories of our times' - New York Times Book Review. In 1914 Ernest Shackleton and a crew of 27 men, sailed for the South Atlantic on the 'Endurance' with the object of crossing the Antarctic over land. In October 1915, still half a continent away from their intended base, the ship was trapped, then crushed in ice. For five months Shackleton and his men, drifting on ice packs, were castaways in one of the world's most savage regions. This gripping book based on firsthand accounts of crew members, describes how the men survived, living together in camps on the ice for 17 months, how they were attacked by sea leopards, had to kill their beloved dogs whom they could no longer feed, and suffered disease with no medicines (an operation to amputate the foot of one member of the crew was carried out on the ice). Their extraordinary indefatigability and their lasting civility towards one another in the most adverse conditions shines through. ... Read more

Reviews (332)

5-0 out of 5 stars An Antidote for the Age of Whining and Self-Absorption
Everything that defines courage and leadership for our age and any other is within the 280 pages of this wonderful book. For nearly two years, in conditions of constant zero and below cold, freezing wet, and often hunger, Ernest Shackleton kept all 27 men who sailed with him on the Endurance alive to eventually return to the England they left on the verge of World War I. That single-minded devotion to his men should make this book required reading for every would-be politician and corporate executive before he dares ask for the faith, trust and respect of those he would lead.

Lansing dedicated the book "In appreciation for whatever it is that makes men accomplish the impossible." He wisely and without flourish often lets the men's own words -- through the journals that many of them kept at the time and in interviews forty years later -- tell their extraordinary story, each stage of which reads more harrowing than the last. On an expedition that would have attempted to cross the Antarctic on foot (a feat not accomplished until four decades later), the Endurance is trapped in pack ice before it can reach shore. Shackleton's perhaps foolhardy original goal thus turns to keeping his men alive until they can be rescued. After ten months locked in the drifting pack, the Endurance is crushed and the men forced to abandon her for an ice floe, then several weeks later a smaller floe still. Eventually they take to three boats to reach forlorn Elephant Island from which Shackleton takes a skeleton crew of five and in a 22 foot open boat navigates the enormous seas of Drake's Passage to South Ascension Island. Once there he only (only!) has uncharted glaciers to cross to reach the whaling station on the other side of the island from which rescue of the Elephant Island castaways is eventually launched. The only other crossing of South Georgian Island by foot at the time Lansing wrote in 1959 occurred on a "easier" route with equipment and time. Shackleton had neither, only a fifty foot piece of rope, a carpenter's adze, and the knowledge that to stop moving was to invite death by freezing. At journey's end, to the astonished manager of the whaling factory, he says simply, "My name is Shackleton." I would have liked to have known him and all his men.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Amazing True Life Adventure Story
I purchased this book for my husband, never intending on reading it myself, but after his raves and recommendations I finally picked it up, and read it with great relish from page 1 to the end. This is surely one of the greatest true life adventure stories of all time. Even though I knew the eventual outcome of this survival tale, I was kept completely captivated by the events as they unfolded, and the almost unbelievable conditions that these men faced. Lansing's well written book presents the facts in a story form that flows easily from event to event. I purchased the illustrated edition, and the wonderful photos were well worth the extra cost. Hurley's photos illustrated the book in a way that no words could, and I found myself frequently turning back to review them.

5-0 out of 5 stars Even knowing the ending, it's a page turner
I'm a fan of survivalist accounts such as "Seven Years in Tibet," and "In the Heart of the Sea." And I loved this true account of the voyage/survival of Shackleton's crew in the Antarctic.

Asking friends and relatives if they've read it, I've heard, "I started it, but I didn't want to see everyone die!" So here's the *spoiler...nobody dies! *

The capacity of the human body to survive and of the human brain to figure out how to do it never ceases to amaze me.

Lansing's account ingeniously pieces together journals of the men involved and includes riveting details without ever being too gory. Even knowing the ending, it's a page turner. I've heard that this is the most involving of all the accounts published...coming across more like a story and less a documentary.

The images of the men on the ice have completely captivated me...the sounds and the movement. Be prepared to grab a blanket and a snack as you read (something not made of penguin)...you'll feel like you're there.

5-0 out of 5 stars ICY Adventure
this book is about how you SHOULD live!
Go for it!

5-0 out of 5 stars Warning: You will not be able to put it down.
I agree with many others this must be one of the greatest survival stories ever told. If you have read the The Longest Walk and found it to be a page turner you will not go wrong buying Endurance. And we know for sure that Endurance is all true. ... Read more


13. Nightingales : The Extraordinary Upbringing and Curious Life of Miss Florence Nightingale
by GILLIAN GILL
list price: $27.95
our price: $16.77
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Asin: 0345451872
Catlog: Book (2004-08-31)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Sales Rank: 1826
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14. Good-Bye to All That : An Autobiography (Anchor Books)
by ROBERT GRAVES
list price: $13.95
our price: $10.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385093306
Catlog: Book (1958-02-01)
Publisher: Anchor
Sales Rank: 14520
Average Customer Review: 4.55 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

The quintessential memoir of the generation of Englishmen who suffered in World War I is among the bitterest autobiographies ever written. Robert Graves's stripped-to-the-bone prose seethes with contempt for his class, his country, his military superiors, and the civilians who mindlessly cheered the carnage from the safety of home. His portrait of the stupidity and petty cruelties endemic in England's elite schools is almost as scathing as his depiction of trench warfare. Nothing could equal Graves's bone-chilling litany of meaningless death, horrific encounters with gruesomely decaying corpses, and even more appalling confrontations with the callousness and arrogance of the military command. Yet this scarifying book is consistently enthralling. Graves is a superb storyteller, and there's clearly something liberating about burning all your bridges at 34 (his age when Good-Bye to All That was first published in 1929). He conveys that feeling of exhilaration to his readers in a pell-mell rush of words that remains supremely lucid. Better known as a poet, historical novelist, and critic, Graves in this one work seems more like an English Hemingway, paring his prose to the minimum and eschewing all editorializing because it would bring him down to the level of the phrase- and war-mongers he despises. --Wendy Smith ... Read more

Reviews (29)

4-0 out of 5 stars Graves in retrospect......

This is Robert Graves' tell all autobiography, or at least the "revised second edition" which doesn't quite tell all. At the time of writing Graves was only 33 yet already had about 30 publications to his name, mostly poetry collections & essays. He had rubbed shoulders with such writers as Edward Marsh, Robert Frost, Siegfried Sasson, T.E. Lawrence, Ezra Pound & Edith Sitwell. Graves had served as a Royal Welsh Fusiler for almost the entire duration of WW1 & been severely wounded, even pronounced dead, before being demobilized. After the war Graves went on to receive his B Litt. degree from Oxford & eventually found a position as the Professor of English Literature at the Royal Egyptian University in Cairo. All this & numerous other stories, events & anecdote are given here in full detail.

Goodbye To All That is most famous for it's graphic & realistic depiction of life in the trenches of WW1. Graves goes into all the details of his military experience. We aren't spared a single battle or a single death. He captures the horror & awe of the war with a roughness that made the book one of the most popular written accounts of WW1. We are presented with scenes of atrocities, suicides, murders & heroic rescues one after another until we can almost feel the emotional change that Graves himself felt as he went from innocent schoolboy to professional soldier. The physical & emotional damage caused by this change are themes that Graves would return to again & again for the remainder of his life.

Oddly enough the man who is most famous as a romantic poet talks very little of his poetry in his autobiography. Despite having several volumes of poetry published by this time, Graves turns away from this & spends more time dealing with the war & problems both on the front & at home in England. Poetry, romance & even love seemed to play a very little part in Graves' life during these years. He mentions his 1st wife Nancy only near the end of the book & offers us only a one dimensional image of her as the devout feminist whom he loved but whom he probably shouldn't have married. Laura Riding doesn't appear in the book at all despite the fact that Graves had known her for 3 years by the time he wrote Goodbye. Other writers or poets who do turn up tend to be there only fleetingly to provide a particular anecdote or to justify Graves' opinion of them. Graves seldom goes into any great depth about their works or their personalities.

Overall, Goodbye To All That is a odd book that sits on the fence between a typical war book & a biography of a literary man. It can't be placed neatly into either category & this is what makes it such interesting reading for the fans of either type. Graves stands out as one of the few literary men who could display his intelligence & education even while dishing out the most brutal scenes of warfare.

5-0 out of 5 stars Brutally honest war memoir
Robert Graves, poet and author of "I, Claudius", was also an infantry officer in the Great War. Here he has written a war memoir which ranks in the same league as Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia".

Honest and open to a fault, he chronicles his upbringing in the English public schools system and his dislike of hypocrisy. This antagonism he will carry with him throughout his period in the trenches.

Graves' vivid portrayal of life in the trenches is second to none. He recounts the endless routine of trench life with its boredom and the terror of attack and German shelling. Held up to special scorn is the sheer stupidity of the higher command and its insistence on wasting the lives of officers and men.

Graves successful attempt at convincing a military board to go easy on his friend and writer Siegfried Sassoon is an amazing segment in itself (Sassoon wrote a pacifist tract while at the same time leading his infantry company with- by all accounts- great courage).

His description of the effects of life in the trenches is well written. Neurosthania (shell-shock) was the 19th century term before post-traumatic disorder was coined. The portrayal of it is vivid, not in a clinical way, but in the way Graves writes about himself and his comrades as they adjust to civilian life.

Everything before Graves life seems a prologue to the war, and everything after an epilogue. What an great and important book this is.

5-0 out of 5 stars Masterful and Ironic Caricatures of Human Folly
"Good-Bye to All That" is one of the most imminently readable autobiographies I have yet come across. Generally, I do not particularly care for the autobiographical genre of writing, nor, based on my public school and university history textbooks, would I have professed much interest in history. Graves' book, however, changes "all that." Two aspects of the book have endeared it to me:

First, Graves' writing style is replete with droll, dry wit. His use of irony to paint word pictures in his readers' minds is masterful. His use of language is inspiring to every occasional writer who longs for such skill. His ability to see through the façades of academic reputation in both public school and university, of nationalistic patriotism, of formally organized religion, and of military tradition overcomes popular perception to show the ignorant, delusional, self-serving nature of such things. Never are his unveilings heavy-handed, though. On the contrary, Graves depicts events and presents examples in descriptions that he refers to as "caricatures," but it would be a dull reader indeed who fails to perceive the ironies implicit in these entertaining recitations.

Second, Graves' autobiography is revealing of many historical topics that escape adequate coverage in most textbooks. The reader comes away with a much improved understanding of early 20th century British society, education, and culture. Because most of the book deals with Graves' experiences in the trench warfare of World War I, the reader comes to visualize the barbarity and insanity of war more acutely than he may have hitherto done. Then there are tidbits that generally escape the formal history textbooks altogether-the antipathy between British troops and French citizenry that led some Britons to the conclusion that their country had aligned itself with the wrong side in the war; the imprisonment of British residents of German ancestry resulting from war paranoia (foreshadowing America's treatment of its citizens of Japanese ancestry during the next world war); British soldiers' opinion of American "support" as American artillery shells showed themselves frequently to be duds or, worse, to fall short and explode in the British trenches rather than the German. Graves presents us history as he saw it first hand, and we are spell bound by his power as a storyteller.

The book also has, from my perspective, two significant weaknesses. First, my command of American English did not always stand me in good stead when confronted by some words and phrases of peculiarly colloquial British usage. This edition of the book does include a short "Glossary for non-British readers," but it needs to be about twice as long for some of us. The second weakness, more of a disappointment, really, is that the narrative stops when Graves is only thirty-three. Even though Graves later appended a brief epilogue, the reader wishes that he had continued his story for many more years, for we come to feel a friendship for this man and are enjoying sitting at his knee, listening to him recount his insightful, entertaining, and thought-provoking observations on life-and we do not want the story to end.

"Good-Bye to All That" is well worth the reading to any number of people-aspiring writers (note Graves' style), lovers of poetry (understand the life behind the poetry), and students of history (learn from it or repeat it eternally). In fact, I cannot conceive of any literate person who would not find Graves' autobiographical tale both enjoyable and instructive.

4-0 out of 5 stars A classic war memoir that doesn't begin soon enough
When I first came to Good-Bye To All That I was expecting a memoir of WWI. I was surprised to find that the book is actually a complete autobiography--a complete history of an author's life up to that point. Because of this, slogging through the first hundred pages or so, which illustrate Graves' education at an English Boarding School, felt like trudging through waist-deep snow.

OK, perhaps I'm overstating things a little, but, needless to say, I was disappointed in the opening chapters of the book. Whatever merit might be present in them couldn't overcome my impatience to get on to the war story.

But once it got to the war years the book took off. Graves left Oxford before attending his first lecture to become an officer in the Royal Welch Fusilliers. Graves saw a lot of action in the trenches and was wounded several times, once so severely his family were notified prematurely of his death. During these years he also became a famous poet, taking the war as his primary subject matter, and beginning a career that would with him being one of the foremost writers of his generation.

In the first edition of the book, Graves explains that the book had to be written very rapidly in order to meet the publisher's deadline. What results from this is a direct and unadorned prose style. Combine this with Graves' amazing memory for vivid detail and the macabre horrors of trench warfare and you get a book that's often very morbid but very evocative.

While the book is at its best when it is describing warfare, the 'third act' of Graves' life--the post-war years when he worked as a poet and academic, and struggled through his first marriage--is very interesting as well. These episodes include some well-known characters, including visits with Thomas Hardy, T.E. Laurence, and a letter from G. B. S. What's best about the post-war section is its portrayal of Graves' shattered mindset, which leads ultimately to the disintegration of his first marriage and the need to finally say good-bye to you and to you and to you and to all that.

Ultimately, it's the war memories that stick in the mind. Flash forward ten years, and Graves' chilling images will still be lingering around in my mind. All in all, it's a great book that deserves its sterling reputation and you will not regret reading it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Moving report on the end of an era
I spotted this remarkable book on ... Top 100 Non-Fiction Books of the Century list. In "Good-bye to All That, " the British poet Robert Graves (1895-1985), best known to American readers as the author of the novel of ancient Rome, "I Claudius," writes the autobiography of his youth, justifiably famous for its eloquent but straight-forward depiction of the horrors of WWI, during which Graves spent years in the trenches of France as an army captain.

More than the war, however, Graves' topic is the passing of an era: the class-ridden and naïve culture of the Edwardian upper classes, a culture did not survive the war. Graves came from a landed family and received a classic boarding-school education. Even in the trenches officers like Graves had personal servants and took offense when they had to dine with officers of 'the wrong sort' (promoted from the lower classes).

Graves' narrative itself barely survives the end of the war; the post-war chapters seem listless and shell-shocked, emotionally detached. The battles he survived are written about with precision, gravity, and emotional impact; but Graves' marriage and the birth of his children seem like newspaper reports. Surprisingly, he doesn't even talk of his poetry much. This, surely, is not a defect of the book but a genuine reflection of his feelings at the time: After the War, nothing meant much to him.

Graves' literary style is very matter-of-fact--the opposite of the imagistic, adjective-driven language one might expect of a poet. Instead, he had a gift for the right details: in only a sentence or two, by careful description, he can perfectly describe a fellow-soldier or give the exact sense of 'being there' in battle. The book is a remarkable achievement worth reading even for those who may be glad the old days were left behind. ... Read more


15. Churchill: A Life
by Martin Gilbert
list price: $24.00
our price: $16.32
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Asin: 0805023968
Catlog: Book (1992-10-01)
Publisher: Owl Books (NY)
Sales Rank: 20296
Average Customer Review: 4.79 out of 5 stars
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It is impossible to understand the Second World War without understanding Winston Churchill, the bold British Prime Minister who showed himself to be one of the greatest statesmen any nation has ever known. This lengthy biography is a single-volume abridgment of a massive, eight-volume work that took a quarter-century to write. It covers Churchill's entire life, highlighting not only his exploits during the Second World War, but also his early belief in technology and how it would revolutionize warfare in the 20th century. Churchill learned how to fly a plane before the First World War, and was also involved in the development of both the tank and anti-aircraft defense. But he truly showed his unmatched mettle during his country's darkest moments: "His finest hour was the leadership of Britain when it was most isolated, most threatened, and most weak; when his own courage, determination, and belief in democracy became at one with the nation," writes Gilbert. There are several wonderful books available on Churchill, but this is probably the best place to start. ... Read more

Reviews (33)

5-0 out of 5 stars Churchill- Man of the Century
It is difficult to comprehend the enormous challenges faced by Britain in the late 1930's- essentially alone against the Nazi aggression, save for a weakened and demoralized France, with the United States in an inexplicable isolationist phase, content to let Europe burn. In this context, the rise of Winston Churchill to Prime Minister can be seen as something of a miracle- one of those rare instances where the man fit his times perfectly. To that end, without his influence, it is easy to imagine revisionist history, with Europe divided between right-wing German and leftist Soviet spheres. How can one small island establish its force and might into this cause and thus preserve the ideals of freedom and democracy?
The answer, as given by Mr. Gilbert, is Sir Winston Churchill himself, and there is not much which can be argued on this point. If you only read one biography of a 20th century figure, then you should make it this book. Besides Adolph Hitler (to which I recommend Ian Kershaw's excellent two-volume biography), there can be no more influential figure of the last century.
And, besides, what a life! As Gilbert's biography makes clear, Churchill was never one to shun from action. There are multiple instances of Churchill, both young and old, tempting fate, either in battle or in his passion for flying. With bombs and bullets flying it seems Churchill was at peace, secure in the knowledge that God had a greater fate in store for him.
Gilbert, the official biographer of Churchill, has done a masterful job of condensing his multi-volume work into a readable 1,000 pages- it will go very fast, believe me.
All in all, the best in historical biography. Highly recommended.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the better biographies I've read for some time......
Martin Gilbert is a prodigious writer and a fine historian. In Churchill: A Life, Gilbert presents an encompassing view of Great Britain's most dynamic historical figure. Little need be said in this review about Churchill, a man larger than life, as that life has been voluminously recorded. However, Gilbert has provided an account that is eminently readable, fascinating in detail, thoroughly engrossing, and bottom-line, simply a pleasurable experience.

As a biographical subject, Churchill has certainly received more negative analysis than Gilbert proffers, but Gilbert takes great care to explain where unwarranted criticism of Churchill's actions and beliefs are, in themselves, errant. Surely, Churchill's politics, in a career that spanned nearly a lifetime, will provide at least some fodder for anyone. By and large, however, Churchill was exactly the prescription required to pull Great Britain through the horrors of World War II.

Not since Truman, by David McCullough, have I enjoyed a biography this much. I recommend the book highly as it deserves, every bit, a rating of five stars.

5-0 out of 5 stars Compared to William Manchester's...
I liked much better this book than those of William Manchester. The story is linear and one feels the author's absolute knowledge of the life of Churchill. Gilbert's admiration of Churchill is apparent. I heard he has written an eight volume (official) biography of which this book is a very comprehensive and very-very well written abridgement, in other words the eight volumes are „distilled" into one. I also think the quotations are much better selected, Churchill's often very long speeches are very well compressed (my favourite is the speech after Munich). This gives the impression - at least to me - of having read a whole speech, whereas in Manchester's book it never really happens and the speeches are usually followed or preceded by the author's comments. I felt Gilbert keeps a greater distance from his subject, the book is more like a frame and lets the reader build up Churchill's personality with his imagination. Also this might be important to some (like myself) that Gilbert's language is easier to understand.
The Manchester books are of a very different character, not linear, much more personal, the author presents a lot of insight, and tells his opinion or judgement on a variety of subjects and choses the right quotations to underline these. These two volumes of Manchester contain a lot more information and interesting details. I usually agreed with his judgements but i sometimes felt he was forcing and repeating them too strong and too often. A great advantage though is that we learn a lot more about the outside world.

Churchill's book on WWII has a part which is called the „Gathering storm" meaning the approaching Nazi danger for the democracies. For Hitler Churchill was the „gathering storm", a phenomenon which is impossible to ignore and whose „thunderous" speeches and articles were so „loud" and powerful. It was nothing else but the power and truth in his speeches that made him so menacing to the Nazis as he was distrusted by all parties of parliament and indeed by the whole population.This was the reason why he was attacked publicly as a simple MP by Hitler in the late thirties when Hitler was the all powerful leader of Germany and Churchill only a political outcast.

I heard people describing Churchill as a born leader. I disagree. I don't think he was a born leader. He was a genius, the „largest human being of our time" but I think these were not the traditonal leadership qualities that made him emerge to become a strong man and a very powerful leader but his courage and his very deep comprehension of history and the power of justice on his side. Without the truth being on his side i think he would never have been a great leader (unlike Stalin or Chamberlain or Hitler).

After reading it one gives credit to the British people and also to their parlamentary system for being so rubust and being able to defend itself in times of great danger. After this book it seems that no attempt were made to bypass it even when it seemed that the present rulers (Baldwin and Chamberlain) were leading it to certain destruction.

Very good idea and makes it much easier to find something in the book afterwards is that on the top of each page the year of the actual story is shown.

Although the author avoids making many personal comments, the book is so well built up and the story itself is so full of drama that it is hard to put down. I am looking forward to reading other works of Gilbert, who really became my favourite historian (I hope they'll be translated into Hungarian soon).

4-0 out of 5 stars Excellent although Somewhat Unbalanced
I rate this book alongside such outstanding biographical works as PATTON by Carlo D'Este, EISENHOWER by Stephen Ambrose, and TITAN (John D. Rockefeller) by Ron Chernow. It is very long, befitting its subject, but immensely readable. Like all great biographies, I was somewhat disappointed when I finished!

My only reason for assigning 4 stars rather than the maximum 5 is that Gilbert is somewhat unbalanced. For instance, if you weren't well informed about WWII strategy, and took Gilbert's account at face value, you would come away thinking that Churchill's strategic genius was frequently offset by stubborn US leaders like Marshall and Ike. Yet in other biographies, like Ed Cray's masterpiece on Marshall, you get a good understanding of how Churchill's ideas for the Aegean and Balkans, while certainly having potential, could have been costly sideshows that distracted the Allies from the main effort in France and Germany. So in this respect, I give Gilbert low marks since he never credits the possible reasons for American strategic reasoning.

All things considered, a superb book about a remarkable man. For all his much-deserved WWII glory, Churchill's career before 1940 was truly extraordinary.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Work
I have not read any other works on Churchill before this but I think Gilbert has done an excellent job. I learned a great deal from this work.

I had no idea of how well connected young Churchill was nor how well he had used those connections. Also I have long been an admirer of WSC because of his strong stance in WWII and his anti communism. I did not have any idea as to how liberal (in the modern sense) he was in other ways. I knew that he had served in combat but knew no details. I also learned a great deal about the up and downs and ins and outs of his political career.

Churchill was an extraordinary man and Gilbert does a good job of cataloging the triumphs, defeats and the setbacks. What I would have liked to see more of was the witticisms and "great moments". WSC is attributed with many interesting quips and stories. I would have enjoyed a biography that dealt with more of these.

I found the chapters on the interwar years of particular interest in light of current events. I would recommend the book to anyone considering a biography of Churchill. ... Read more


16. Perdita : The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson
by PAULA BYRNE
list price: $27.50
our price: $18.15
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Asin: 1400061482
Catlog: Book (2005-03-22)
Publisher: Random House
Sales Rank: 79016
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17. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Alone 1932-1940
by William Manchester
list price: $50.00
our price: $33.00
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Asin: 0316545120
Catlog: Book (1988-10-28)
Publisher: Little, Brown
Sales Rank: 33421
Average Customer Review: 4.91 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (23)

5-0 out of 5 stars An Excellent History of Churchill's Wilderness Years
As one reads William Manchester's second volume on Churchill, one is struck by Churchill's uncanny grasp of the threat of Nazi Germany, and his many attempts to warn Britain of its peril. Like Cassandra in Greek mythology, though, Churchill's predictions are not believed, and he is only included in the War Cabinet when war was inevitable. William Manchester's book is thoroughly researched, and is at least as good as that of Churchill's official biographer, Martin Gilbert, with one important difference: Manchester's book is written on a far larger canvas, and the level of detail he is able to devote to Churchill is far greater -- and the subject is more than worthy of it. Mandatory reading for anyone studying Churchill, a good prelude to read before reading Churchill's own five volume history of World War II in that it gives insight into Churchill's mind. On a personal level, I know that Mr. Manchester is advanced in years, and I cannot help thinking, in my selfishness as a historian, that I hope he completes volume III soon. It would be a tragedy if the task of completing this wonderful history proves to be too much for him.

5-0 out of 5 stars Current Events
As the crisis in Iraq developed in the post-911 days, I found myself thinking more and more about this second volume of the life of Winston Churchill. I was reminded of the essential differences between appeasement and the need to take agressive measures to stop agression. William Manchester does an outstanding job of spelling out the state of the world at this time leading up to World War II. He details, from a British perspective, every move as we watch disappointedly from an historical vantage point. Churchill's eventual elevation to Prime Minister comes not as a triumph, but more like an act of desperation. All along the way, knowing who the bad guy is (and just how bad he really is) we are disappointed (or is it disgusted) at each step of retreat.

I am in the midst of reading Shirer's "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" and, while I can sing it's praises, it does not do as impressive job on this subject as Manchester's "Alone". Someting about Manchester's writing makes you feel that you're in the midst of everything that's happening.

I can think of no better a time to read this book than in the present world political situation. I'll leave it to the reader to decided how similar the Iraq situation is to that of Nazi Germany. However, the various ways the world and this country react to the situation brings Europe of the 1930's to mind.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Captivating Read
As Hitler was gaining power in Germany, Churchill was warning his fellow countrymen of the dangers thatlurked. He did not receive a listening hear. At a speech before a University audience in Oxford when he told the crowd it was "essential for us to be safe in our island home," the audience burst into laughter. The laughter grew so raucous that Churchill could not continue. These are the sort of snapshots that Manchester captures that makes this book such a delightful read.

Churchill was written off more than once. This second snapshot describes what happened:
"Joseph Stalin, receiving a British delegation headed by Nancy and George Bernard Shaw, had bluntly asked her about Winston's political prospects.Her eyes widened. 'Churchill?' she had said. She gave a scornful little laugh and replied, 'Oh, he's finished.'" These are just two examples of the thoroughness of this well-written book. The author takes a complicated era and makes it understandable.

4-0 out of 5 stars Wilderness Years
I liked this treatise on the life of Churchill. His wilderness years when those who treated him with disdain thought of him as a wash up.

This was his time to bide his time, in order to gain his composure for his future use.

Anyone in the oxbow of life can gain insights on how to use time rightly until the attainment of a goal.

Churchill did not just bide his time, he used it to his advantage.

One day I hope Manchester finishes volume III.....

5-0 out of 5 stars Superstar
I've read a lot of books in my life, but I guess I had to wait to find one of the best books I've ever read. It is hard to believe that a "history book" could be a page-turner, but I literally could not put the first volume down. Or the second. Manchester is a fantastic writer and his admiration and enthusiasm for the Last Lion is evident. Do yourself a very big favor and read these books, Vol. 1 and 2. I sure hope there's a Vol. 3 in the works. ... Read more


18. The Surgeon and the Shepherd: Two Resistance Heroes in Vichy France
by Meg Ostrum
list price: $27.95
our price: $27.95
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Asin: 0803235739
Catlog: Book (2004-03-01)
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
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19. Fire in the Night : Wingate of Burma, Ethiopia, and Zion
by JOHN BIERMAN, COLIN SMITH
list price: $29.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375500618
Catlog: Book (1999-12-28)
Publisher: Random House
Sales Rank: 218564
Average Customer Review: 4.88 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Few men have made as outstanding contributions to their country's cause as Orde Wingate, yet few have divided opinion so completely. "We don't want any more Wingates in the British Army," says an Army Council minute written after the end of the Second World War, and after his death. In contrast, no less than Winston Churchill himself said, before the House of Commons, "There was a man of genius, who might well have become a man of destiny."

John Bierman and Colin Smith's enlightening and rigorous biography of this brilliant man amply demonstrates how the conservative establishment of the British Army could come to adopt such an ungracious attitude to one of their most dynamic sons, who contributed so much to the war effort with dazzling performances in Abyssinia and Burma, and so much to future strategic thinking with his bold formulation of new methods. He ruffled feathers with his uncompromising style, unconventional thinking, and eccentric nature (perhaps most memorably expressed in his unaffected penchant for receiving visitors in the nude). Together with an acute intelligence and great breadth of learning, Wingate was a man possessed of awe-inspiring will and single-minded application, and he was often seen flying into a rage when things were not done as he thought they should be. Many, regardless of rank, felt the lash of his tongue. His almost fanatical commitment to the cause of Zionism, a highly sensitive and ambivalent political hot potato for the British at the time, seems also to have rankled many who simply could not understand a man so unlike the typical public-school-educated officer. Although not Jewish himself, to this day he is widely honored in Israel. Zvi Brenner, his Jewish bodyguard in Palestine before the war when he was commanding the Special Night Squads, elegantly encapsulated the man when, in describing Wingate's uncanny ability to negotiate all terrain in darkness, he said, "Wingate didn't follow any paths but walked in straight lines." A truly exceptional man; there is, unfortunately, little chance of the British Army's having any more Wingates. --Alisdair Bowles, Amazon.co.uk ... Read more

Reviews (8)

4-0 out of 5 stars NOT THE STANDARD WARRIOR GENTLEMAN
Having been brought up on stories from my early years about the brave and often forgotten exploits of the Chindits I was very enthused to tuck into this book. Orde Wingate has been the hero of many, not so much because he was a military successful warrior, but because he was wildly unconventional at a time when staid ethics and methods of war were leading to defeats of the western allies on all fronts.

A fierce Old Testament fear and learning of the bible bread in what would now be called a fundementalist christian family, he blended this with [...] eccentricities like, indifference to appearing nude before his collegues and newspapermen, a complete indifference to British Monarchy and the hierarchical class-bound society and way of thinking. An appreciator of new ideas and probably quite to the left of many of his superiors, he had no hestation in punishing and physically striking his recruits (no matter their colour), and could kill the enemy mercilessly, or order large groups knowingly to their death without a blink.

Wingate pioneered unconventional warfare with his notion that large unit groups can function in the rear of the enemy for long periods of time if they were self-sufficient and well trained. He eschewed the entire idea of "special forces" as they are often called nowadays. In the end I do not think that he squared the circle large unit action and special forces --- he wanted both and got really neither. His tactics worked rather well against the Italians (but that was no surprise he realised), but they were problematic against the Japanese. The first operation, "Long Cloth" was an unmitigated disaster, with enough adventures from its many participants to fill an entire library (they still make some of the most heart thumping reads available). The entire operation broke down and became in some cases, every man for himself. Wingate himself giving the order.

His second operation was more problematic. No doubt these operations had significant effect on the enemy and no doubt were very helpful in the taking of Myikyena and Mogang, but I really think that 14th Army would have rolled up the Japanese flank nicely anyway, as they did and win the Battle of Burma with overwhelming firepower and troops as well unmitigated air superiority.

In the end the Japanese in Burma were beaten by traditional large unit engagements.

That is not a defeat of the ideas of Orde Wingate, nor do they negate the incredible bravery of the men who served with him. What it does DO however is to put to rest the idea that Orde Wingate was a purveyor of "Truth" -- his ideas were worthy, but they were not the be-all end-all of jungle combat. His developments were prodigeous and his personal bravery never in doubt. But I think that, like Moses, he got involved too much in fanatical devotion to one idea and was willing to sacrifice a lot for an idea. In the case of Moses, his people --- in the case of Wingate, it was often his own troops.

This books admirably chronicles the multifacted nature of Wingate. It is factual and comes across as neutral as possible, often citing critical sources and those men (also of incredible courage) that did not fall under his spell.

The narrative is tight and WELL EDITED. Unlike your regular 1000 page biography Smith and Beirman are able to deal with the subject adequately in 400 pages with nothing substantive missing. Also there is just enough detail of almost all of his life. The final 150 pages deals with the Burma campaign the authors are very skillful in their use of detail. They include all of the crucial elements necessary of his many campaigns.

I found the book to be a very admirable read. I think that it only deepened the questions I have about Wingate --- was he a daring experimenter or a madman? --- I think that one can add, bitterly-troubled person to the heap of other appelations surrounding this man.

I still ask myself, if this man were my commander would I succumb and become a convert? Would I stand aloof and protest that something is terribly wrong? I do not know, and cannot judge because I was not born at the time these events transpired. I was not a part of this great crusade, the glory they gained or the horrors they endured.

5-0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary story of a unique person
This is actually three wonderful stories in one. Beginning with a short introduction of the 'early years' the book quickly opens with Wingate in 1936 Palestine/Zion where is quickly discovers the passion that he will keep for the rest of his life, namely Zionism. Wingate, witnessing the anti-Semitic nature of the British officer corps, gravitates towards the Zionists due to his penchant for sticking out and backing underdog causes. This book tells the riveting story of Wingate's training and arming of the famous 'night squads' which became the backbone of the Palmach who eventually led Israel to victory in the 1948 war.

The second story is the story of Wingate in Africa. Exiled to Africa because of his deep connections to the Zionists Wingate once again latches onto a new cause, the 1941 liberation of Ethiopia, which had been the last free African state before the Italians invaded it.

The third story is where Wingate once again shined, namely in Burma leading the Chindits who operated behind enemy lines fighting the Japanese. Once again Wingate's penchant for native causes and brilliant ability to adapt unorthodox fighting techniques helped prepare the way for British victory. Churchill called Wingate a genius and when you read this book you will wholeheartedly agree, this is truly the story of the man who was the 'fire in the night' when the world was becoming dark with fascism.

Seth J. Frantzman

5-0 out of 5 stars One good read begets two
Some time ago, I read QUARTERED SAFE OUT HERE, the wartime memoirs of George MacDonald Fraser concerning the time he spent in the Other Ranks of the British imperial army that recaptured Burma from the Japanese in World War II. In his book, Fraser mentions the high regard the troops had for the army commander, William Slim. I subsequently read DEFEAT INTO VICTORY by Field-Marshal Viscount Slim, a personal account by the man who commanded the Fourteenth Indian Army during its bitter retreat from, and its glorious return march through, Burma. In his volume, Slim mentions the unorthodox British general Orde Wingate's contributions to the Japanese defeat in Southeast Asia. Thus, FIRE IN THE NIGHT, Wingate's biography.

Co-authored by John Bierman and Colin Smith, FIRE IN THE NIGHT is the immensely readable life story of an incredibly complex man. In a nutshell, after several brief chapters on Wingate's early life, the narrative sequentially covers his postings in Palestine, Ethiopia and, finally, India/Burma, during which time (1936-1944) he rose in rank from Lieutenant to Major General. In the British Mandate of Palestine, Orde became an ardent Zionist while fighting Arab "gangs" with Special Night Squads, the armed detachments of British regulars and Jews which he himself brought into being. In Ethiopia, his was a key role in the British victorious military effort to drive the Italians from the country and return Haile Selassie to the thrown. In India, Wingate's ultimate triumph before an untimely death was to conceive, form, train and deploy the Third Indian Division, the "Chindits", as a Special Force to insert behind Japanese lines in Northern Burma to destroy the enemy's means of communication and supply.

To my mind, the strength of this book is that it gives the reader an excellent overview of Wingate the man and soldier without getting bogged down in an overabundance of detail. Certainly, the subject of Wingate's character, obsessions and eccentricities could fill volumes. He was admired and loved by the men he literally led into battle. (He drove them hard, but he drove himself even harder.) Conversely, he was loathed by many of his officer peers and superiors for his arrogance, outspokenness, rudeness and personal slovenliness. (He was on record as calling some of his more Blimpish superiors "military apes".) But, he also had his admirers in high places, most notably Winston Churchill and Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Supreme Commander of all allied forces in Southeast Asia.

Perhaps the most endearing of Wingate's traits were his eccentricities. For example, he carried a wind-up alarm clock on his person because he considered watches unreliable. And then there was his attitude to personal nudity best illustrated by an incident during the wide press acclaim following his first Chindit campaign. An Australian correspondent invited to the general's hotel room in Delhi wrote:

"I found him sitting naked on his bed, eyes buried deep in a book. He hardly glanced up as I entered and rather gruffly asked what I wanted. ... He wasn't interested in me or my requirements, but seemed most excited about the book he was reading ... a critical commentary of Emily Bronte and her work."

Can you imagine those media hogs of the Second World War - Patton, Montgomery and MacArthur - doing that?

5-0 out of 5 stars Balanced and entertaining...
This is a lucid, penetrating, balanced and entertaining analysis of one of the 2nd World War's underestimated and controversial personality---a latter day T.E. Lawrence without the romantic riddle and enigma. The authors skillfully grabs the reader's attention from the start, eliminating extraneous details.(e.g., initial statement: "Orde Charles Wingate entered the world as he left it, amid a flurry of urgent telegrams.")

The book makes one wonder what the outcome would have been if he was given far more timely attention for his, at that time, unconventional theories of long range penetration and supply. On the other hand, it makes one wonder if he would have amounted much in today's athmosphere of the 'politically correct society' with his "amazing success in his getting himself disliked by people who are only too ready to be on his side", with his abrasive way of getting things done. It may well be a classic example of the adage that 'genius is never appreciated in one's time.' But many exalted figures in history considered him a military genius--the authors made it plain and clear there were many detractors too, from the ordinary soldier to Field Marshall Slim's unjust inferences in his post war memoirs.

My only complaint: the maps in the book--one gets the impression they were done in a hurry; the places mentioned which are crucial to the events described cannot be found, and I found myself having to use different atlases.

In retelling this story, the authors proved once more the truth in the saying that two heads working together are better than one.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great!
Bierman and Smith have done a fine job of portraying Wingate. And, what a great read!

Wingate has finally been given his due in this book. His true worth as an Army officer is finally exposed: As great as Lawrence but lacking the literary gifts.

A must-read for the professional Army or Marine Corps officer! ... Read more


20. Six Wives of Henry VIII
by Alison Weir
list price: $15.00
our price: $10.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802136834
Catlog: Book (2000-04-01)
Publisher: Grove Press
Sales Rank: 11837
Average Customer Review: 4.82 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The tempestuous, bloody, and splendid reign of Henry VIII of England (1509-1547) is one of the most fascinating in all history, not least for his marriage to six extraordinary women. In this accessible work of brilliant scholarship, Alison Weir draws on early biographies, letters, memoirs, account books, and diplomatic reports to bring these women to life. Catherine of Aragon emerges as a staunch though misguided woman of principle; Anne Boleyn, an ambitious adventuress with a penchant for vengeance; Jane Seymour, a strong-minded matriarch in the making; Anne of Cleves, a good-natured and innocent woman naively unaware of the court intrigues that determined her fate; Catherine Howard, an empty-headed wanton; and Catherine Parr, a warm-blooded bluestocking who survived King Henry to marry a fourth time. ... Read more

Reviews (95)

5-0 out of 5 stars From A Teen's Perspective
I have one word to say-WOW! I am thirteen years old and last November my family took a trip to London over Thanksgiving break. While in Westminster Abbey's gift shop, I noticed this book about Henry's the Eighth's wives. The book looked HUGE and I jokingly told my brother I was going to read it. I started looking at it and it looked so interesting I really did end up buying it. Once I got started reading it, I couldn't put it down. I had heard about a King named Henry with six wives before, but this book completely changed my view of him AND his wives. Weir shows us their thoughts and feelings and brings every character to life. After reading the book, I reccomended it to my best friend's mother, who read it and loved it also. After reading it, I began to look for more books on the Tudor period in Great Britain and have become an absolute fanatic on the subject. I learned more from this one book than from all my other history classes combined!

5-0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and fascinating!
This is perhaps one of the finest biographies of the women who shared their lives with one of the most powerful and fascinating monarchs to have ruled England. Weir devotes the utmost care to each of the six wives of Henry VIII, telling their stories with compassion and giving each an individual voice. Most of the energy of this book is clearly directed on Henry's first two marriages, first to Katherine of Aragon and the divorce that helped to create the Church of England, and his stormy second union with Anne Boleyn, mother of the Great Elizabeth, chronicling her astronomical rise in power and her spectacular fall from grace. Powerful and masterfully written, Weir recreates the fantastical Tudor court and sweeps the reader into this realm effortlessly. Immensely readable and absorbing, this is Alison Weir at her very best. Extremely well researched, I would recommend this book to anyone who is the least bit curious about 16th century society as viewed through the eyes of 6 of the most important women of their time.

5-0 out of 5 stars most informative.
My decision to read this book stemmed from a desire to get the feel of England at a most influential and diabolical time in history. Italian Renaissance has always captivated my interest with its stories, inventions, and literature. But upon the anticipation of a recent trip to England I though it necessary to brush up on my English history.

This book was compelling from the start. It rules out all ridiculous American folk tale myths you might have heard about the King Henry who cared only for himself, and little for his religion or country. The opposite is quite true. Weir leads you into Tudor history and holds you there for well over 500 pages. Each of his wives were unique and unlike the other. They had histories before the king, and some despite some misconceived notions continued to have pleasant lives beyond the king. I would recommend this book to anyone who is just beginning a love for England's history or to the most professed scholar on the subject. You will find yourself falling in love with these characters, and wishing more was to come.

5-0 out of 5 stars Simply the best, hands-down
It's thorough. It's accurate. It's all the glamour and betrayl of English court life in a single book. Weir hasn't just raised the bar, she's obliterated it. Everything you could possibly want to know about Henry VIII's wives is in here---the clothes they wore, the gossip surrounding them, and what Ambassador So-and-So thought of their manners. Best of all, it's not the slightest bit boring. If every history book was written this way, the world would be a much better place. Do not hesitate: buy it now.

5-0 out of 5 stars Stunning, fascinating book
I cannot recommend this book strongly enough to anyone who's even slightly interested in the story of Henry VIII and his six wives. This is a gorgeous, cohesive book, easy to read and full of historical detail that enriches the story rather than overwhelms it. There were many times when I forgot I was reading non-fiction, the story was so cleanly presented.

This is a far cry from the dry, confusing history lessons I had in high school. Weir makes these women (and the men around them) come back to life, warts and all. Normally reading a book like this, I'd need a flow chart to keep track of all the dukes, duchesses, ladies, lords and scheming religious zealots, but I had no trouble at all remembering who was who, even during the period where every woman was apparently named Katherine, Anne or Elizabeth. It was especially interesting to see how kind history has been to Anne Boleyn, a woman who may actually have been deserving of the executioner's axe.

My one miniscule gripe (not enough to drop my review from 5 stars) is that once in a while, Weir puts the story ahead of the timeline and will insert details out of sequence. One example of that is that during a segment discussing the latter years of the marriage of Henry and Anne Boleyn, there's a short paragraph discussing a gift Anne gave to Henry early on in their relationship. There really wasn't any reason why that tidbit couldn't have been presented chronologically; the only thing I could think of was that perhaps the author didn't want to interrupt the narrative about the acrimony between Anne and Katherine of Aragon by tossing in the bit about the gift. There are about a half dozen or so instances like this, and while they don't at all disturb the flow of the book, they struck me as a little annoying given the meticulous detail to the timeline in every other instance.

This is a truly masterful book; I plan on immediately purchasing Weir's other books in this genre. ... Read more


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