I certainly wouldn't call this an enjoyable book, but it is certainly one of the best detailed histories of the opening days of The Great War, what weI certainly wouldn't call this an enjoyable book, but it is certainly one of the best detailed histories of the opening days of The Great War, what we have come to know as World War I. I'm currently participating in the War Through the Generations World War I reading challenge for 2012, and chose this Pulitzer prize winning chronicle to start my journey through this epic struggle between the Allies and the Central Powers. It did not disappoint.
By focusing on the issues, nationalism, misunderstandings, and rivalries leading up to the conflict, and examining in minute detail the build-ups, alliances, war plans, battle strategies, personalities, and mis-steps of the national leaders, Tuchman gives us, in clear and concise prose, an engrossing story of how the actions of so few impacted the entire world. The first month's campaigns are explained in blinding detail and no matter how much or how little exposure the reader has had to military life and jargon and history, no matter how negative or positive the reader's attitude is toward the subject, she grabs our attention, arouses our emotions and intellect, and takes us through an entire month of mistakes, miscues, arrogance, buffoonery, lack of vision, and dare I say idiocy of the then current state of warfare. 19th century tactics were meeting head on with earky 20th century weapons and technology, e.g. the airplane and zeppelin; experienced leaders from previous wars held tenaciously (and disastrously) to their pre-drawn plans without taking into consideration the impact and possibilities of new weapons, the possible change in "enemy" strategies and tactics, at the same time they made erroneous assumptions based on untested hypotheses, or scenarios that were at least 100 years old.
It was a frustrating read. At times I was so outraged by the stupidity of the players that I had to put it down for days at a time. It was minutely detailed, easy to follow, even for this reader who normally doesn't "do" battle scenes. In the end though it was a book that could not be abandoned, a book that made me examine my own attitudes about armed conflict and the total insanity of humans killing humans to prove a point. I plan to read several more books, both fiction and non-fiction, about this conflict and the period surrounding the actual war years. I doubt I will find one that is better written, or more readable....more
It's been a while since Elizabeth George has given us a new episode in the ongoing adventures of Scotland Yard's Chief Inspector Thomas Lyndley and hiIt's been a while since Elizabeth George has given us a new episode in the ongoing adventures of Scotland Yard's Chief Inspector Thomas Lyndley and his trusty side-kick Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers. Believing the Lie was worth every minute of the wait. It's meaty, some might argue a tad long, but the subtle layers of personal motivation, interwoven stories of various characters, and a crime that defies definition -- (was there a crime?) keep the reader up late at night, turning pages, vowing to read just one more chapter.
There are several story lines going here, all of them inter-related but each also a stand-alone. Havers is dealing with ambivalent feelings about her (and Lyndley's) new "guv" -the impeccably groomed Isabelle Ardery whose insistence on Barbara getting a haircut and spiffing up her wardrobe does not sit well with the Sergeant. Barbara's also dealing with the sudden (and somewhat unwelcome) appearance of the mother of her next door neighbor's daughter.
Debra and Simon are engaged in emotional upheaval revolving around their (in)ability to conceive a child. Lyndley himself is still reeling from the death of his wife Helen three books ago, and is conflicted about his relationship with Isabelle, engaging in a highly charged sexual affair by night, and keeping an even professional keel in the office.
Scotland Yard Commissioner Lord Hillyer sends Lyndley on an undercover, hush-hush mission to Cumbria to see if the death of his friend Lord Fairclough's nephew was truly accidental as it had been so ruled by the coroner. Because Hillyer doesn't want anyone at the Yard aware of the investigation, Tommy takes his friends Simon and Debra St. James with him, swearing them to secrecy. He tells Havers only that he will be gone for a few days, and simply tells Isabelle (his boss) that he's on assignment. All too soon, Sgt Havers gets drawn in to research items for him using the Yard's resources, and Isabelle's nose gets way out of joint.
The Fairclough family is a soap opera in print. There's marital infidelity, an out of the closet gay couple, neglected children, a nymphomaniac mother, an out-of-control teenager, a recovering drug addict and his secretive wife, a matriarch who wants to control all, a disgruntled tenant farmer, a sour, spoiled-brat spinster daughter, and a divorced couple still living together. The author manages to keep each of these story lines moving right along without confusion on the reader's part, and in the end ties everything together. Often authors trying to keep this many balls in the air try to wrap everything up in a neat package with a pretty bow, leaving their readers breathless, confused and frequently disappointed. George takes her time, drawing out the stories and letting them come to natural conclusions, even when the reader would have wished for a better or different ending.
George has built on characters introduced earlier in the series, but gives enough back story to provide new readers with a clear sense of who and why. She has also given us a lot to look forward to in future installments. Many potential readers are familiar with Lyndley and Havers from the PBS Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of the earlier books, and although those are well done, there is no way the TV specials can include the depth, diversity and delicate nuances of the books.
If you enjoyed the TV show, you'll love the books. If you're a fan of the series, you will love this one, and if you're new to Tommy and Barbara, grab this one (or one of the earlier ones)---you're in for a treat!
Many thanks to Penguin for making the e-galley available for review. Publication is scheduled for January 17th....more
Stephanie Madoff Mack had it all: homes in Soho, Greenwich and Nantucket, a doorman, a dog walker, reliable childcare for her two beautiful children,Stephanie Madoff Mack had it all: homes in Soho, Greenwich and Nantucket, a doorman, a dog walker, reliable childcare for her two beautiful children, a handsome rich husband who adored her, a famous even wealthier father-in-law, luxury cars, nice clothes. Then in December 2008, her father-in-law Bernard Madoff, confessed to his two sons that his entire life and business was a giant lie. The rest is history. Thousands of people lost millions of dollars from "investing" with Bernie Madoff, including Stephanie Madoff's own step-father.
Over night all members of the Madoff family became pariahs, hounded by the FBI, the SEC, and the media. Mark and Andrew, Bernie's two sons, were the ones who turned their father in to the FBI, but no one would believe that the sons had not been involved in the fraud. As lawsuits piled up, and bankruptcy loomed, Mark and Stephanie faced total isolation, and became estranged from the rest of the family who refused to sever relations with Bernie. Mark spiraled down into a deep depression and attempted suicide. After his failed attempt, he went into counseling and seemed to be recovering.
Two years to the day from his father's arrest, Mark hanged himself in the Soho loft, while his wife and daughter were in DisneyWorld, and his son slept in the next room. His final texts, sent on December 11, 2010, at 4:14 a.m., while Stephanie slept, simply said: Please send someone to take care of Nick and I Love You. Suddenly Stephanie's life was totally upside down. Now she not only had no money, no job, and myriad legal problems, but she had no husband, and her children had no father.
I was hesitant to listen to this in audio, although it is a format I really enjoy, because the author reads this herself. I thought it might be self-serving, or whiny, but it's not. It's a straight forward account of a young woman's change in circumstances and how she is dealing with the problem. Oh. Yes. there is certainly some rancor toward her mother and father -in law. There is certainly still an unsteady relationship with Mark's brother Andrew. And yes at times it is difficult to feel sorry for someone who still has a dog walker, nice cars, a doorman, and several houses. But she is very clear that all that privilege does not make up for being deprived of Mark's presence. She tells her story, from the beginning of her relationship with Mark, to their early days together, meeting the senior Madoffs, their wedding, early days of marriage and pregnancy and parenthood.
She is bluntly honest about the trauma and terror of the days following finding out about the Ponzi scheme, and her anguish as she watched the agony her husband and brother-in-law went through trying to convince the world that they were not involved. Her animosity toward her mother-in-law Ruth Madoff is especially well documented. She relates her panic at receiving those last two text messages from her husband, her frantic efforts to get her step-father to gain access to the apartment home to check on her son, and the subsequent flight home and how she had to explain to her 4 year old daughter that "daddy had a boo boo in his brain, and it made him die, and now he's in the sky and you can talk to him anytime you want. He can't come home but he's there for you anytime you want to talk to him."
She ends by reading from the first paragraphs of Mark's unfinished book that he had begun writing before his death. He wanted desperately to vindicate himself, to recapture the respect he felt he'd earned by all his hard work, and that he'd lost because of his father's transgressions. Her heart-felt passion is at once emotional and composed. No matter whether the reader believes that the sons were involved or not, and no matter what other financial tragedies that Bernie Madoff unleashed on the world, this story is a compelling personal one that presents a story needing to be told.
Penguin sums it up in their press release: "Stephanie Madoff Mack has written this at once searing and poignant memoir in order to tell her husband’s story—for him, for their children, and for the world."
Ms. Madoff gives us just enough emotion to be able to understand her feelings, without having to wallow in them....more
I read this as an ARC back in 2009...it was OK, but the characters were formulaic and cardboard, the story the same old same old rehash of various womI read this as an ARC back in 2009...it was OK, but the characters were formulaic and cardboard, the story the same old same old rehash of various woman's "issues" and the recipes nothing that made you want to rush out to the local, far less to William Sonoma for ingredients and or implements. My notes then indicate it was "singularly disappointing."
I wonder if it's been significantly re-written since that advance copy?...more
I haven't read Jeffrey Archer for years, and now I wonder why. This new series featuring Harry Clifton, son of a dockworker (or is he the son of an upI haven't read Jeffrey Archer for years, and now I wonder why. This new series featuring Harry Clifton, son of a dockworker (or is he the son of an upper crust owner of a huge shipping line?), and his climb through the British public school system is going to be a delight if this first one of five is any indication. Make no mistake, this is not a Pulitzer, but it is good, solid storytelling, with bold characters, a world wide setting, and a story that has enough twists, turns, and sneaky heart-stoppers to definitely merit the label "page turner."
The story involves Harry, as he grows from an angelic choirboy into an intelligent, hardworking young man faced with the difficult choice of going to Oxford upon graduation from the US equivalent of high school, or joining the armed forces as Britain enters the war against Hitler. His romance with the sister of his best friend, together with some of the aforementioned story twists makes his choice even more difficult. Harry's mother, a hard-working widow, who takes a series of back-breaking jobs to help with Harry's expenses, is harboring a secret about Harry's parentage. This secret, if revealed could destroy lives, and Archer skillfully weaves his story around it.
My only problem with the book was the absolutely sucker punch ending. I was left gasping, yelling "Don't do that to me!!." I will be among thousands lined up to get my hands on the second book in the series to find out what happens next. The Clifton Chronicles promises to keep us all enthralled for several years to come....more