I am always interested in other cultures and ways of life. So when I saw this memoir on our library shelves I felt that this author might give me an iI am always interested in other cultures and ways of life. So when I saw this memoir on our library shelves I felt that this author might give me an idea of how and why the ultra-orthodox Jewish enclave in New York live the way they do.
Deborah Feldman takes us through her life in the Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism located in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg area. She tells us about her mother coming from England after a matchmaker finds her as a suitable wife for her father. He comes from a wealthy family but it is quickly understood that he is mentally disabled. He is able to only do simple tasks and he can’t even care for the family. After her mother runs away from the family and from the community Deborah is taken in by her grandparents but her life is supervised by one of her father’s sisters. Due to the shame of both her mother running away and her father’s mental condition Deborah is considered damaged goods and the family doesn’t spend much on her.
Even as a young child Deborah fights the restrictions that come with her life. Books are not allowed for females, especially any in English. But she still sneaks to the library to quietly check out stories of lives she wishes she had herself. Friends are restricted; clothing carefully watched over, education is limited as Deborah grows up. Girls are expected to do one thing when they reach adulthood and that is to marry. Family must grow and men taken care of as they study the Torah and work. But overall sacrifice and suffering is respected more than individuals.
We are shown a life where boys/men are respected more than women. Religious celebrations, meals, etc. are highlighted by the males while females are kept in the shadows. Even in the synagogue women can attend only a few times a year and there they are kept upstairs behind a wall with just a few small holes for viewing of the service below. It is expected that women move off the sidewalk when a man approaches. And if the rabbi decrees women shave off all their hair and wear wigs that is what is expected to happen.
Marriage is contemplated starting at age 17 and one is married to a stranger – matched by a paid matchmaker. While both people can reject the match (they do get to meet once or twice under supervision) if the families want the match it happens. Wealth and status are very important. It seems love is only important if it happens with the match. That comes across during the story of a brother to Deborah’s husband where he falls for a girl but marriage is not allowed as she is not from the right (wealthy, status, etc) family. This is more like the 17th century than the 21st century life.
As Deborah’s marriage to a total stranger comes closer she is inducted into the many rules of a married life. While Deborah had already started to question her life as a Hasidic Jew the rules for married women and a marriage to a husband who was cold to her except when he wanted sex pushed her to begin to plan on leaving the only life she knew by age 20.
This book was very good to give you an insight in life as a Hasidic Jew of the Satmar sect. Not all Jewish groups are the same so if you read this book don’t assume all live under these rules. And while the author focuses on life in the community there is an emphasis on her family who are rigid and uncaring towards her. The ending seems very rushed and leaves a lot of questions – like how did she actually get away from the community, especially with her young son which is a forbidden act. What is she doing now (it says she is studying at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in NYC but it doesn’t really say how she is getting the money for all of this).
For other books about breaking away from a religious life you can try Gypsy Boy by Mikey Walsh and Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler.
Known for her well received book The Secret Life of Bees Sue Monk Kidd has come back with another wonderfully written story that involves family and rKnown for her well received book The Secret Life of Bees Sue Monk Kidd has come back with another wonderfully written story that involves family and race. But this time her focus is on a period of time before the Civil War with the horrors of slavery and the beginnings of abolitionism and suffragists as the theme.
Hetty “Handful” is a ten-year old slave girl when she is brought into the wealthy Charleston SC home to become the handmaid to eleven-year old Sarah Grimke in 1803. Even at that young age Sarah doesn’t want anything to do with slavery but it is made clear to her by her mother and father that she will own this slave. The Grimke’s plantations and city home are run with slave work.
From that fateful day both Sarah and Handful lives are entwined even when they are separated by distance. Sarah is smart enough to be considered by her jurist father to be better than her lawyer brothers but since wealthy women were not educated nor did they have professions Sarah feels stifled. Her younger sister Nina, who Sarah takes under her wing, also fights against all their family stands for. When Sarah accompanies her father north to Philadelphia to seek a cure for his illness she discovers other possibilities for her life.
Handful’s whole life is the Charleston house where abuse of slaves is the norm. Her mother Charlotte, and later her half-sister Sky, are also Grimke slaves. Canings, whippings and the workhouse are all too common but the three believe that one day they will be able to escape this existence.
The novel uses first person accounts by Sarah and Handful in alternating chapters. Through their stories we follow Sarah, Nina, Handful, Charlotte and Sky through 35 years of slavery, abolitionist work and even the beginnings of becoming suffragettes as all five women face hope, betrayal, love, loss and hatred.
What is remarkable is that this novel is based on the true lives and work of Sarah and Nina Grimke. Both women were at the forefront of the fight against slavery and women’s inequality. It is believed that their work was actually the inspiration for Uncle Tom’s Cabin. And as Kidd stated in her Author’s Note their struggles have largely gone unnoticed in both current Charleston and American history. This novel will definitely change that now.
A wonderful novel for those who love historical fiction, biographical fiction, black history and women’s history,
This is the true story of an insane couple that put their heart where their mouths were and became a team that rescued golden retrievers and other dogThis is the true story of an insane couple that put their heart where their mouths were and became a team that rescued golden retrievers and other dogs from shelters. Meet David Rosenfelt, sometime Hollywood screen writer and Edgar Award nominated author of the Andy Carpenter series and his wife, Debbie Myers, Media VP for Taco Bell.
Living in Southern California they had a large number of dog shelters from which to rescue dogs. It wasn’t unusual for them to have 30+ dogs at any one time in their house (though it meant leaving their house in town with close neighbors for the countryside due to noise and “the smell”). But when Debbie retired they decided Maine would be a good place to start over and hence the book Dogtripping.
While the focus is on how one moves 25 dogs across the country (yes, with 11 people with 3 RVs) most of the short chapters are on the various rescues they had done in the past, including their first named Tara. After Tara passed away and they recovered from a broken heart (plus started the dog rescue Tara Foundation) Debbie and David could not say “no” to any Golden Retriever that ended up in a nearby shelter. And they also would adopt other large dogs that Debbie “discovered” at the shelter during the adoption process of the Golden.
Some of the stories were heartbreaking and some showed the nastiness of mankind. But many ended up putting a smile on my face and in some instances I was laughing till tears came to me. David is a very funny writer partly because he doesn’t take himself seriously. Especially during the trip planning and actual travel David comes across as the “glass half empty” sort of person.
A short book and quick read (one could finish the book in a day or two) this is highly recommended for dog lovers, rescue people, those who love humor. And it is especially for those who plan to travel across the country with a large number of animals in tow!
Like many children growing up in the 1960’s I joined a scout troop as a Brownie and kept with scouting till I graduated from high school. I really enjLike many children growing up in the 1960’s I joined a scout troop as a Brownie and kept with scouting till I graduated from high school. I really enjoyed the Girl Scout summer camps (now long gone due to the economy) and working on badges. But it really never dawned on me that the Girl Scouting organization we now have was due to one very strong willed woman in the early 1900’s.
Juliette “Daisy” Gordon was born in 1860 as a Southern belle in Savannah Georgia. Her mother was from a very prominent Chicago family and her father was a wealthy tobacco distributor. But soon the Civil War interrupted her family life and her father went to fight with the South while her mother’s family fought for the North. The first half of this biography follows her life during the Civil War and afterward (her family didn’t seem to have suffered financially and their homes were spared). We watch “Daisy” grow up and move into a social and educational life that covered two continents and then to a marriage to an English aristocrat. The second half of the book is her life after she took the almost unheard of step of divorcing her philandering husband William “Willy” Mackay Low in 1905 and then fighting his mistress for her inheritance rights when he suddenly dies before the divorce can be finalized.
In the early 1900’s unmarried older women were expected to stay in the background of life but Juliette Low continued to be social and active in both America and England society including traveling the world. It was then she met Sir Robert Baden-Powell, a British army hero who founded the Boy Scouts in England. Watching how he made the organization both educational and fun (the premises was that boys would be taught skills used by army scouts) Juliette Low decided to do the same for girls. While “scouting” was too masculine the idea of Girl “Guides” was just right.
In 1912 Juliette Low returned to her family home in Savannah to start troops of Girl Guides in America. Soon after Juliette Low changed the name to Girl Scouts (not without fighting the Baden-Powells and others over the idea) and she worked to spread the organization first north and east, and then west. It was World War I and the organizational and work skills of well trained Girl Scouts that led to the great popularity of Girl Scouts amongst both girls and adults throughout the country. After the war Juliette Low then worked to bring Girl Scouts/Guides to the international world that included German and Japanese girls. But overall it was Juliette Low’s tremendous organizational skills, influence with people in high places, perseverance (she wouldn’t take “no” for an answer) and money that Girl Scouts grew to over 90,000 members before she passed away from cancer in 1927.
What was very unusual is that “Daisy” accomplished tremendous things while being partial to almost totally deaf most of her life. Hearing aids were unheard of and so she sometimes suffered the consequences from the inability to hear. But that did not stop her. The book shows a very headstrong woman (her nickname was “Crazy Daisy”) and she used her wealth and her connections in very high places to assist her in whatever project she set her sights on finishing.
What comes out of this book is the belief that Juliette Gordon Low was a remarkable woman of her day. As was stated by the author “[s]he counted true and dear lifelong friends on both sides of the Atlantic. She had earned the respect of vibrant, dedicated women who shared her vision for the uplift of girls in the Girl Scouts, and the affection of those who struggled with her to bring about global understanding in the International Council. Through sculpture, sketching, painting, and metalwork, she created items of lasting beauty. Her remarkable experiences included meeting royalty, hunting tigers, flying in airplanes, climbing the Pyramid, nursing soldiers, living on two continents, and traveling to Africa and India. She went up the Eiffel Tower when it was new. She drove through Europe when automobiles were in their infancy, and made one of the earliest films. She invented and patented a liner for garbage cans.” And this is a woman of the early 1900’s when it was expected that they stay at home to care for family and hearth.
Cordery is the author of Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from White House Princess to Washington Power Broker and two books on Theodore Roosevelt. She serves as the bibliographer of the national First Ladies’ Library and is a professor of history at Monmouth College (Illinois). This is a book for those who love historical biographies, women’s history and especially Girl Scouts....more
Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir That Inspired Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey by Margaret Powell
Continuing to feed on the populBelow Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir That Inspired Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey by Margaret Powell
Continuing to feed on the popularity of the PBS series Downton Abbey we are given a memoir from the servant’s point of view in the book Below Stairs. Originally published in UK in 1968 it has been reintroduced to the public by St. Martin’s Press with the statement from Julian Fellowes (creator of Downton Abbey) noting that “Margaret Powell was the first person outside my family to introduce me to that world, so near and yet seemingly so far away, where servants and their employers would live their vividly different lives under one roof. Her memories, funny and poignant, angry and charming, haunted me until, many years later, I made my own attempts to capture those people for the camera. I certainly owe her a great debt.”
What he writes about is the short memoir of Margaret Powell who lived and worked in 1920’s England. After a few brief chapters on life as a child (and a young student) she describes how at age 13 she had to leave school even though she had won a scholarship due to her family’s economic situation. Starting off with odd jobs she moved on to working as a hotel maid at age 14. Later she became a kitchen maid to some of the large homes. Her goal was to become the “cook” who ruled the roost below stairs.
The author tells it like she saw it – at times she is feisty, angry and cutting about the people she meets both below and above (labeled as “Them”). Unlike what we see in both Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey there was a lot of smelly, dirty, grimy, hot and hard work handled by those who only received one afternoon and evening off (4:00-10:00) and alternate Sundays off the same hours for 24 pounds a year. Otherwise work began at 5:30 and went till late at night seven days a week. Powell’s hatred of her work and her life definitely shows through in her writings where very little is pleasant.
So if you are ready to read about the glamor of “Upstairs” this book won’t be for you. If you want to read the perspective of one of the real lives of “Downstairs” then feel free to pick it up and breeze through it in one day. But be ready for some cutting remarks and stories that make you wonder how they actually were able to do the work. And the “Upstairs” for the most part does not come off well at all. While this is not a piece of great literary work it is a way to understand what it was like for the 1920’s “Downstairs” workers. Powell wrote a number of other books after Below Stairs came out and made her a celebrity. She passed away in 1984. ...more
PBS had a hit with Downton Abbey, the two year series following the upstairs and downstairs lives in the early 1900’s. Season one of Downton Abbey focPBS had a hit with Downton Abbey, the two year series following the upstairs and downstairs lives in the early 1900’s. Season one of Downton Abbey focused on the years before World War I with season two centered on WWI. Many of the series followers have been delighted to hear that a third season will be made. But to get us through the lull we can read about the “real” Downton Abbey which is Highclere Castle.
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey follows the life of Almina Wombwell starting with her marriage to the 5th Earl of Carnarvon in the 1890’s. When they met Almina was a beauty and had been in society for a few years but due to her lack of “breeding” she was not totally accepted. Lord Carnarvon was facing financial problems due to the death taxes from the deaths of his father and older brother. But instead of marrying an American heiress for her money like other impoverished royalty the Earl chose Almina and her Rothschild’s funds. Almina happened to be the illegitimate daughter of Alfred de Rothschild and her very generous dowry could rival many American heiresses. What is interesting is that unlike some of these financial marriages we find that Almina and the Earl of Carnarvon actually loved each other and their marriage was a great success.
The current Countess of Carnarvon used diaries, letters, stories passed down through generations and photographs found at Highclere Castle to give us the almost fairy-tale life of Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon. Financially backed by her father Alfred de Rothschild for much of her life she was able to improve the Carnarvon property holdings which included Highclere Castle. Lady Almina also entertained much of the English society in a grand scale, and that included the Prince of Wales (Queen Victoria was by this time in mourning). And with her money as backing the Earl of Carnarvon was able to delve into his love of Egyptian archeology by funding various digs in the area of the Valley of Kings.
Unlike Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey the focus of the book is mostly on the lives of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon and less on the lives of those who served them. But we still get a taste of what the “downstairs” life was like at Highclere Castle through some descriptions of daily work and living arrangements. The book also discusses a bit of the “outside” workers, those who worked the farms, handled the horses (and later the cars), cared for the woods and the mills. Life before World War I meant that many of these grand estates were very much self sufficient.
World War I brought a change in life style similar to what we saw in Downton Abbey’s second season. Highclere Castle became a working hospital for officers (not just a convalescent home as in the series) and Lady Almina became a nurse caring for the horribly wounded. She set up the hospital with the latest medical machines and hired qualified nurses using her own money (with great support from Alfred de Rothschild).
After the war the Earl of Carnarvon, together with Howard Carter, returned to the archaeological digs in Egypt and while this nearly bankrupts the Earl of Carnarvon they discover the tomb of King Tut in 1923. The Earl’s death soon after pretty much ends the story as the book barely touches on the rest of Lady Almina’s life and her death isn’t even described. This may be due to the fact that the book was probably written with the knowledge that the fan base from Downton Abbey would love to read about Edwardian society life and not a sad tale that Lady Almina became by the time of her death in the 1960’s.
This book is a quick but detailed read into the life of high society in the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s. It is also informative on life during World War I through the horrid stories of soldiers coming back from the trenches and battlegrounds. A must read for those who loved Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey (and great fun trying to see any connections between the fictitious and real families). A great read for history buffs, WWI followers, English history readers and those who just want to dream on what it must have been like living at Highclere Castle in its day. ...more
History comes alive and in full color with the novel Clara and Mr. Tiffany. And color is the main component of this love story with Tiffany stained glHistory comes alive and in full color with the novel Clara and Mr. Tiffany. And color is the main component of this love story with Tiffany stained glass. And what is wonderful is that while the book is a novel it is all based on fact. And as a side note I listened to part of it on book on CD and the reader is absolutely fabulous – so either enjoy a great read or a great listen – all of it is superb.
There truly was a Clara Driscoll and as most know there was Tiffany jewelry and in particular for this story the famous Tiffany glass. Clara headed the “women’s studio” of Tiffany glass for Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of the patriarch and owner of the family business of Tiffany jewelry. The women who worked with Clara were the only females in the glass art world of New York and beyond. It was considered a man’s occupation and Clara, with the women she hired, set out to show Louis Tiffany and the world how much artistic skill and creativity women could bring to this art.
In this story we move from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair through the next 12 years as Tiffany glass and Clara receive awards, honors and many commissions for windows, mosaics and lamps. But we also see the egotistical side of Louis Tiffany as he continues to take credit for the designs and art of Clara’s skill. Women were just there for his needs. He even treats his twin teenage daughters, trying to break away from home to go to school at Bryn Mawr, with little respect and tells them that they should stay home instead of trying to expand themselves.
Clara worked in the women's studio for Louis Tiffany and struggled against the anti-female bias of the company and world of that era. Clara was a first-rate artisan but she didn’t end up with the full respect of the company We see the men’s Glaziers and Glass Cutter’s Union begin to agitate and their anger ferment when they see how well the women do with both the creativity and production of Tiffany windows and lamps to the detriment of their own organization. When it came to deciding which group was right the women’s studio suffered until they too, following the women’s suffragette movement, decided to take a stand.
We also find Clara continuously seeking what I note is Louis’ love of her work, her creativity, and just maybe of herself – something he could never give her due to his marriages and their social status. Clara seemed to wish for his attention and even love throughout the book. When told of Louis Tiffany’s visits to the mosaic group Clara notes “Under my skin burned the heat of coveting his two visits a week, but I couldn’t say a word. They were my friends. The creative collaboration I had let myself believe I alone had with him was intimate and passionate. Now it was cheapened by seeing his more attentive collaboration with them. I was still just one of his minions.”
Louis Tiffany doesn’t do anything to change these thoughts he had to note that Clara might have for him. At one point Clara notes that “He cupped his hand under a peony tenderly, as if it were the chin of his beloved, for the sake of the frailty of one petal about to all. Beauty is everything, isn’t it?” His gaze moved from the blossom to my face in the most penetrating way. No, it isn’t, but I refrained from contradicting him. My mouth tensed involuntarily with an awful tightness. I wished I didn’t have my glasses on, wished my nose were smaller, my mouth more upturned, my eyelids less droopy, my hair more stylish. Oh, what was the use?” In the end, her love for him – his creativity, artistic skill and even life – would keep her skills and endeavors with the Tiffany glass under the Tiffany sway.
Clara’s love for both Edwin and Bernard would be her sustaining hope. These two were a whole different life for Clara. First was Edwin who was her artistic muse but would end up disappearing forever after declaring his love for her. Then Bernard, the Englishman who seemed untouchable due to his “marriage” would come into her life and be an anchor as changes begin to happen as the 20th century modern era arrives in many aspects of New York life.
Throughout the book color plays such an important role and it should when we think of stained glass. Every page highlights the colors in and of the lives of the characters, and it is so vibrant and thrilling. Form and structure also are so important to the characters and this is highlighted in the building of the triangular “Flatiron Building” on Broadway and Fifth Avenue that “at a certain angle, only one of its long sides was visible, so it looked like a completely flat building, a mere façade without any width at all, like a giant piece of cardboard balanced on end and painted with windows. It was both disconcerting and thrilling.”
What is amazing is that all of this is true. In the midst of the book I actually started researching the Tiffany lamps and windows, plus the characters. Clara Driscoll has been reborn in the recent research (much of the life and work of Louis C. Tiffany was destroyed in the fire of his mansion Laurelton Hall in 1957) through the letters of Clara Driscoll. This research has been noted in the following references (with excerpts):
http://www.antiquesandfineart.com/art... While Louis C. Tiffany (1848-1933) was the artistic genius behind the creative endeavors of Tiffany Studios, the discovery of a cache of correspondence written by Clara Driscoll (1861-1944), head of the Women's Glass Cutting Department, has revealed the substantial contributions of the women who labored anonymously to create Tiffany's masterpieces.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/26/art... Clara showed an aptitude for art and attended design school in Cleveland, working for a local furniture maker before moving to New York, where she enrolled in the new Metropolitan Museum Art School. By 1888 she was employed at the Tiffany Studios, where she remained for more than 20 years. Most of this was unknown to scholars as recently as the fall of 2005, when a man approached Eidelberg after a lecture, said that he was a descendant of Clara Driscoll, and asked if he was interested in seeing letters that she had written at the turn of the 20th century. Eidelberg had recently published a book about Tiffany lamps and knew Driscoll's name in connection with a group of women who, during a strike by the men of the Lead Glaziers and Glass Cutters Union in 1892, were hired in large numbers by Tiffany to cut glass.
I have to say that this is a book that is a must read for those who love history, love stories, the art world and just anything that is so beautiful. This is the perfect book to read or listen to for enjoyment and enlightenment. ...more
A few years ago a wonderful history book that read like a novel was published with a horse as the focal point: Seabiscuit: An American Legend by LauraA few years ago a wonderful history book that read like a novel was published with a horse as the focal point: Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand. The book attracted a tremendous following not only by horse racing and horse lovers but many who saw the book as a look back at another time in America. It was even made into a movie that also attracted a number of viewers.
With her new book on the show jumper Snowman Ms. Letts tries to follow a similar path. But while the book uses Snowman as the focal point this is really the story of Harry De Leyer, a struggling riding instructor. Snowman was an unwanted four-year old flea-bitten gray plow-horse that Harry buys in 1956 for $80 from a killer wagon to become a lesson horse. Later Harry discovers this very laid-back lesson horse could jump when Snowman keeps leaving pastures to visit his stable. From there we follow the two as they train and move up to the top shows in the country winning events against the fancy horses of the wealthy and powerful owners and riders.
The book focuses on the years of the 1950’s and 1960’s but it also makes quick visits to the 1940’s and World War II to backfill Harry’s story. Before the war Harry showed a knack with working and riding horses in Holland and he aspired to one day ride for his country in the Olympics. During the war Harry and his family struggled to keep farming while quietly working against the Germans. At the end of the war Harry married his sweetheart and immigrated to the United States, sponsored by a family of one of the American soldiers he tried to help during the war. Harry and Johanna arrived to become share croppers and then slowly they entered into the horse trainer business. By 1956 when Snowman makes his appearance Harry is the beloved riding instructor for the very posh Knox School for girls on Long Island NY.
The 1950’s were a time of change and this book takes a look at how those changes were happening through Harry and Snowman. Up to this point horses and showing were the bailiwick of the very rich that could afford the cost of horses and show life. Top hats and evening gowns were the dress of the show audience and our countries teams were made up only of amateurs who had no need to work. But this “Grand Society” life was coming to an end in the late 1950’s with the advent of the cold war and the American worker. And Harry and Snowman were the symbols of that change.
As Ms. Letts notes at one point after Harry and Snowman win at the National Horse Show “Up in the stands, thousands of people – families with children, shopkeepers, police officers, and secretaries – looked down from their perch high up in “heaven,” clapping wildly and uproariously cheering, smitten by the horse who seemed to fly without wings and yet was so firmly anchored to the ground.” And later she writes “Harry and Snowman seemed to capture the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps approach Americans admired, especially now, with the Cold War threatening those very values.”
The author does a wonderful job of describing America and the changes that were happening in this country. Ms. Letts also gives us historical asides that explain certain events. And as an equestrian she truly knows horses and the language of the business. There might be times where a non-horse person may feel lost in the descriptions of the horse, training or showing but if one sticks with this book the 1950’s and early 1960’s will come alive again. Definitely a read for those who want to visit our country’s past, those who love showing and horses and those who admire the story of someone who through hard work and skill realized the American dream....more
While this book’s title would scare many away from reading it they will have missed a wonderful story about a woman who was way ahead of her time. ConWhile this book’s title would scare many away from reading it they will have missed a wonderful story about a woman who was way ahead of her time. Connected to some of the most famous (and infamous) families of Italy in her time Caterina Riario Sforza was able to navigate wars, treachery, three marriages and even betrayal to become a power in her own right.
Born in Milan in 1463 as the illegitimate daughter of Galeazzo Sforza who was heir to the Duchy of Milan, Caterina was accepted as part of the family. Unlike most of the world illegitimacy carried no sting. Raised in the court of Milan she was wed at the age of 10 to the Pope’s corrupt nephew when her father was killed. She enjoyed the Papal Court life in Rome till her husband was assassinated. With his death she became the ruler of two city-states (Italy at that time was ruled by various families in various regions). But she did it with cunning and with strength – including while many months pregnant literally guarding the castle to be sure her family would continue to reign.
Her story continues and the treachery, her political skills, and the many alliances she formed that would change in an instant were just unbelievable, including her connections to the Medici family and Borgia family. In the end her direct connection with a future pope seems to be the crowning achievement of her truly great life. This book is a fantastic look at Renaissance Italy’s history most don’t read or know about except through a few infamous families.
The only thing I would recommend would be for the reader to diagram out the people as they come and go. By the time I was mid-way through the book (and it isn’t that long) I had to backtrack and make family trees so I knew who was who and what happened when. I am not very good at Italian names and many began to seem the same. And the families had to be kept separate in my mind to follow the number of betrayals and alliances. But this is the book if you want read about Renaissance Italy AND about a woman who could outwit and outfight most men of her time.
There probably were very few people who didn’t vilify Bernard L. Madoff in December 2008 when it was learned that he and his Bernard L. Madoff SecuritThere probably were very few people who didn’t vilify Bernard L. Madoff in December 2008 when it was learned that he and his Bernard L. Madoff Securities Investment LLC had swindled thousands of people, including family, friends, small businesses and non-profits, out of over $55 million in a great Ponzi scheme. And that included his two sons and his wife, at least originally.
Through the eyes of one surviving son, Andrew, his fiancé Catherine Hooper, plus Bernie’s wife Ruth we follow their lives before, during and after the implosion of Madoff Securities. Why would we want to do so? Sometimes we learn more about what happened from the closest people to the situation. Luckily I didn’t have anything connected with this investment firm but I have had past experience with family touched by a Ponzi scheme and know of its devastating effects. And I wanted to know how one could do such a terrible thing or allow it to happen if you knew it was going on.
The author explains her rational for writing this book. She was the daughter who wrote the non-fiction book The Impostor’s Daughter in 2009. Her “charming Argentine father was in fact a pathological liar and con artist. Instead of working for the CIA, as I’d long suspected, he’d lived off stolen cash from friends and family. His college degrees were forged, his heroics in Vietnam invented. The revelations threw a grenade into the middle of our family and caused a rift that has yet to heal: My mother denied what I’d written and refused to read the manuscript; my father stopped speaking to me. Still, I knew that the consequences of remaining silent were greater than those of telling the truth. So I wrote the book in spite of my family’s protests.”
After being approached by Catherine Hooper to write a book about the Maddoffs our author agrees to do so to give the affected parties a voice. The chapters are told from various family perspectives – Ruth, Andrew and Catherine — beside what could be gleamed from public records.
And it is a family that has begun to crumble even before December 2008. We are shown a meek Ruth who is behind her husband and does not nor will not question his decisions. We watch as one son, Andrew, tries to leave the firm to handle his own businesses which leads to confrontations with his brother Mark and father Bernie who want to keep him close. And when Catherine enters the picture she finds that Bernie is so controlling he could be labeled an obsessive/compulsive person. I loved the part about how Bernie would get on his knees every day to be sure his blinds were exactly straight along all his windows.
The first son Mark does not come off well – he seems to have been a manic-depressive sort who would blow up even with his loved brother and ended up taking his life on the second anniversary of Mark and Andrew turning in Bernie. Couldn’t he handle that he did the right thing by turning in his father? What would this book have been like if we heard from him personally?
A family in turmoil but does it answer who really knew what? I know how I felt after reading this book but does that make it any better for the victims? Maybe not but I do get a feel for how this financial scheme could have been hidden for those many years from even close ones. Sometimes looking beyond the headlines helps know those behind the headlines....more
I started reading this large book (817 pages not including notes, bibliography and index) in June and I came to the part about the Declaration of IndeI started reading this large book (817 pages not including notes, bibliography and index) in June and I came to the part about the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July holiday. And I am glad I did – by following George Washington’s life this book was tremendously informative on much of our country’s early history!
I know, we all learned about Washington in grade school – how honest he was (the old Cherry Tree episode) and all about his false teeth made of wood. How he was the general in the Revolutionary War crossing the Delaware on Christmas Eve, and our first President. What else is there to know? There is quite a bit more as I found when I started reading this well researched book.
Washington’s family came from the gentry in England. Family funds (through his grandfather’s line) made him financially comfortably for much of his life. Like many other families in the 18th century death came often and quickly to the Washington family both before and during his early life, including the death of his father while Washington was just a child. And family deaths would continue to play a big part of Washington’s life.
At age 15 Washington left education behind and became a surveyor. This formed him into a man who loved the physical outdoor world, a trait which would become very useful as a military leader. It was his hard work and financial luck (again, mostly due to deaths of various family members) that allowed him to become a landowner and planter at an early age.
Chernow does a fabulous job of giving the details in a readable format of Washington’s rise as a soldier, starting with the French and Indian War, through the command of the Continental army during the Revolutionary War. This book should be read if one wants a history lesson on the battles and military strategies of both of the wars. While Chernow does an excellent job on the detail of the soldier’s life and the army movements during the Revolutionary War it sometimes bogs down the story. But the overall effect left me amazed at what was accomplished and wondering how in the world we even won that war.
This book goes into great depth over the founding of our country’s government and how Washington was a great part of it both behind the scenes and as a leader of the delegates. But we don’t get a varnished Washington. While Chernow shows us a Washington who was a master manipulator of men he also gives us a vain and almost egotistical man. One minute we see a “financially broke” Washington and the next minute we see him ordering fancy uniforms and costly household furnishings to keep up appearances. And throughout his life Washington is shown as only giving lip service to abolishing slavery – both as a planter and as a leader of a young nation.
As I said before, this is a well researched book and it is heavily footnoted. The pictures for the most part are portraits of Washington in various stages of his career though there are a few of his family, friends and colleagues. I was left wishing for pictures or other visuals of Mount Vernon when the plantation kept coming up in the book. But the end result is a very readable book and it should interest anyone who loves American history, military history and biographies. I am glad to have read this book as I ended up knowing Washington as a real person, not a school lesson....more
The Yale Law School professor and author of the best-selling World on Fire traces the rewards and pitfalls of a Chinese mother's exercise in extreme pThe Yale Law School professor and author of the best-selling World on Fire traces the rewards and pitfalls of a Chinese mother's exercise in extreme parenting, describing the exacting standards applied to grades, music lessons and avoidance of Western cultural practices.
While Amy Chua is a harsh task master to her two daughters Sophia and Lulu this is how she was brought up. But it takes Lulu's rebellion in her early teen years to give Amy pause to consider her actions. Personally I consider some of what she put her daughters (and the whole family) through as absolutely harsh but I also believe some of her demands are exactly what might be needed to bring up children in today's society.
A great read to consider other "cultures" and their parenting plans....more
The personal story of the former Secretary of State traces her childhood in segregated Alabama, describes the influence of people who shaped her life,The personal story of the former Secretary of State traces her childhood in segregated Alabama, describes the influence of people who shaped her life, and pays tribute to her parents' characters and sacrifices.
The book starts slowly but then builds steam and follows Ms. Rice from her grandparents lives to the point where GWB wins the election. This isn't as much an autobiography as an explanation of the influences in her life. And I must say her parents really sacrificed for their only child -- which definitely helped this smart and gung-ho child who would touch the top of academic and political jobs....more
When I was growing up I saw a movie that impressed me so much that some scenes are still vivid in my memory after all these years. Even then I wondereWhen I was growing up I saw a movie that impressed me so much that some scenes are still vivid in my memory after all these years. Even then I wondered how much was fact and how much was fiction. After all, the main character seemed to be such an unbelievable hero. That 1962 movie was Lawrence of Arabia.
So when I saw a book by a well-known author on Lawrence of Arabia, aka T. E. Lawrence, I quickly grabbed it up to read. Now understand that the 700 page book was a little daunting in heft (that is the actually story – add many more pages of pictures, endnotes, bibliography and index after that). But it wasn’t the heft that held me back at the start but the first couple of chapters of the book. One lands in the middle of the 1917 fighting in Aqaba and the surrounding area for the first 115 pages which of course is not the start of Lawrence’s life. But it did solidify his hold on history.
And what a history! After working my way through those first couple of chapters of detailed military history we are introduced to Lawrence and his family. Understanding his unusual family gives us a feel for who Lawrence really was and why he may have turned out the way he did. The details on Lawrence are thorough – from his early life, life as a school child, through his time at Oxford. You are shown a young man who was gifted as an athlete and a scholar.
His life work after Oxford continued as an archeologist and a natural-born leader in what we now know as the Middle East. As World War I broke out he took on even more daunting escapades operating behind the lines, sometimes without the support of anyone but a few of his Arab friends. His military skills were far better than most military officers (which, of course, he could never be with his family tree). And he was the author of the great military book Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
What is amazing is that even after the war ended Lawrence’s influence in the history of the area was huge. If one wants to know how the Middle East became what it is today one only has to read this book to find out how Lawrence’s diplomatic work towards Arab independence shaped the countries and rulers of the area.
This thorough book doesn’t end there – we follow Lawrence through his “second life” after the war when he tried to hide from public scrutiny. He rarely succeeded and was haunted by his successes till his sudden death at age 47 in 1935. This young death is sad as Lawrence’s mental and physical achievements were so amazing throughout his life. He was brilliant, fearless, felt no physical pain, and was able to work even through sleep and food deprivation. One wonders what he could have achieved if he lived many more years.
Not that he was perfect – we are also given his imperfect side of his life. While he might try to shun publicity (he refused the many awards offered to him) he could also turn into an egotistical man looking for admiration from those higher than him. There were also questions of his sexual orientation and motives for some of his actions.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves biographical and historical work, wants to know more about the history of the Middle East or is interested in military history. While this is a very detailed book it should be noted that much of it reads like fiction – not too dry – so one shouldn’t be afraid it is all “just the facts”. I blew through the book by just ignoring many of the endnotes. The pictures are a great addition and one is left wishing there were more of them (even the pictures from film Lawrence took of the Arabs during the war). The book aims to give the reader a thorough understanding of who was T. E. Lawrence — and I found out that he truly was a hero!...more
Robyn Scott tells the story of growing up in Botswana Africa. At the age of seven her family (comprised of a doctor father, holistic mother and a younRobyn Scott tells the story of growing up in Botswana Africa. At the age of seven her family (comprised of a doctor father, holistic mother and a younger brother and sister) move from New Zealand to Botswana where her father becomes a "flying doctor". The children are homeschooled and their playground is the bush. They see first-hand the apartheid mind-set of their South african neighbors and the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. Robyn's tales of her family and life will keep you spellbound....more
A wonderful quick read about a lady who, with her African Grey Parrot Alex, changed the way we look at animals and the way they think. Irene and AlexA wonderful quick read about a lady who, with her African Grey Parrot Alex, changed the way we look at animals and the way they think. Irene and Alex had a special bond and this story takes us through from the beginning to the sad end when the bond is broken. The only thing I wished is that there was a further telling of Irene and her other Greys after Alex passed away...more
A memoir of an English woman who starts riding in life and within a few years begins to foxhunt just as it is being banned. Interesting read on life iA memoir of an English woman who starts riding in life and within a few years begins to foxhunt just as it is being banned. Interesting read on life in England and riding....more
When Martha's longtime friend and former neighbor Lloyd Allen heard those negative stories, he hardly recognized the generous, fun-loving, and down-toWhen Martha's longtime friend and former neighbor Lloyd Allen heard those negative stories, he hardly recognized the generous, fun-loving, and down-to-earth woman he's known and loved for years, and after she was indicted, he told Martha he was going to write this book. With Being Martha, Allen introduces you to the flesh-and-blood woman behind the glamorous public image. Drawing on hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews with Martha; her family, including her mother, her daughter, Alexis, her sister Laura, and her brother George; and many of her closest friends and colleagues over the years, the author at last shows us the real Martha: an enormously talented, passionate, determined, and hard-working woman who has achieved phenomenal success by inspiring and enriching the lives of millions." "Lloyd Allen weaves together never-before-told stories and details from Martha's early years as a model, stockbroker, and caterer, telling the true story of how an always-busy Connecticut homemaker broke through big-time to become the world's most successful businesswoman at the helm of the company that bears her name, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. ...more
Bill Bryson was born in the middle of the American century--1951--in the middle of the United States--Des Moines, Iowa--in the middle of the largest gBill Bryson was born in the middle of the American century--1951--in the middle of the United States--Des Moines, Iowa--in the middle of the largest generation in American history--the baby boomers. As one of the funniest writers alive, he is perfectly positioned to mine his all-American childhood for memoir gold. Like millions of his generational peers, Bill Bryson grew up with a rich fantasy life as a superhero. In his case, he ran around his house and neighborhood wearing a jersey with a thunderbolt on it and a towel about his neck, vanquishing evildoers--in his head--as "The Thunderbolt Kid." Using his fantasy-life persona as a springboard, Bryson re-creates the life of his family in the 1950s in all its transcendent normality--a life at once familiar to us all and as far away and unreachable as another galaxy....more
In 1980, when Kuegler was seven, she accompanied her German linguist parents into the Papuan (New Guinea) jungle to live with the Fayu, a Stone Age trIn 1980, when Kuegler was seven, she accompanied her German linguist parents into the Papuan (New Guinea) jungle to live with the Fayu, a Stone Age tribe of naked people with bones through their noses. She felt immediately at home and by her own account had an idyllic childhood till she was 17, even though the Fayu were split into four mutually hostile subtribes in a culture of "hate, fear and tribal war," where children "knew no security or innocence" and had "little love, no forgiveness and no peace." After years of close friendship with Fayu children, eventually Kuegler was sent to boarding school in Switzerland, had a baby shortly after she graduated, married, divorced, sank into depression and attempted suicide. ...more
Pulitzer Prize winner (news column) Connie Schultz marries an up-and-coming US Senator Sherrod Brown. This follows her life during the campaign trailPulitzer Prize winner (news column) Connie Schultz marries an up-and-coming US Senator Sherrod Brown. This follows her life during the campaign trail making one wonder why one would do it?...more
Read by the author both beginning and end, the actual book by Arthur Morey, it can be a dry at times. In the whirlwind of accusations and recriminatioRead by the author both beginning and end, the actual book by Arthur Morey, it can be a dry at times. In the whirlwind of accusations and recriminations that emerged in the wake of 9/11 and the Iraq war, one man's vital testimony has been conspicuously absent. Candid and gripping, George Tenet's At the Center of the Storm is a revealing look at the man at the helm of the most important intelligence organization during the most challenging times in recent history. Beginning with his appointment as Director in 1997, Tenet unfolds the momentous events that led to 9/11; his declaration of war on al-Qa'ida; the CIA's covert operations inside Afghanistan; the worldwide plan to fight terrorists and his warnings of imminent attacks against American interests in the summer of 2001; and the immediate counterattack against al-Qa'ida. Tenet then turns to the war in Iraq as he provides dramatic insight on the run-up to the invasion, including an account of the fallout from the "sixteen words" in the president's 2003 State of the Union address; the true context of Tenet's own now-famous "slam dunk" comment; and the CIA's critical role in an administration predisposed to take the country to war. Through it all, Tenet paints an unflinching self-portrait of a man caught between the warring forces of the administration's decision-making process, the reams of frightening intelligence pouring in from around the world, and his own conscience...more
Marie Antoinette was dispatched to the French court as a teenage bride by her mother, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, to cement an alliance betweenMarie Antoinette was dispatched to the French court as a teenage bride by her mother, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, to cement an alliance between the two superpowers. Marie's intended role was to function as a spy-agent for the Austrian imperial court. She had been raised with a certain informality, a sensibility she brought with her to the opulent Palace of Versailles, but Fraser is quick to admit to Marie's extravagance once she became queen. Even though Marie's marriage to Louis XVI proved problematic, the king never took a mistress; however, Marie got saddled with a reputation for taking lovers of both sexes. Although Marie had no real taste for politics, the revolution proved fatal for her, but Fraser concludes, "her weaknesses, although manifest, were of trivial worth in the balance of her misfortune."...more