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A Desperate Passion: An Autobiography Paperback – November 17, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (November 17, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393316807
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393316803
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.4 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,251,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Our memories fade quickly. As recently as the 1980s, nuclear war seemed a very real possibility. Nuclear weapons in Germany pointed at the Soviet Union; similar missiles in Russia were aimed at Europe and beyond. The United States spent money on an outer-space shield to ward off attacking missiles. And people protested. Foremost among them was Helen Broinowski Caldicott, the first president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, who led an educated but passionate fight to slow the arms race and prevent worldwide catastrophe. Time has allowed Caldicott a measure of distance to judge her own affairs, and she does so in this book, which examines a loss of her personal life, her recollection of the struggles, and her unleashing of emotions during these "traumatic events." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Intoxicated by radical movements at home and in the U.S., Australian-born Caldicott risked her marriage, family and career (including a Harvard appointment) to promote atomic disarmament and disparage (especially in Nuclear Madness) atomic power, to publicize feminist concerns and to press an environmentalist agenda. Although dumped by a backbiting male cabal as first president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, she remains a passionate exponent of her convictions, often, it seems, not letting reality intrude on them. Soviet leader Brezhnev and Foreign Minister Gromyko are among her heroes, as is Cuba's Fidel Castro. The Feds, she asserts, designated New Mexico a "national sacrifice area," permitting it to be radioactively polluted "for the national good." In 1983, she charges, "Humanity was almost converted to radioactive dust" because of a "belligerent NATO exercise." Readers who persist beyond the gushiness, self-deception and Hollywood name dropping here will find an underlying pathos in the price of Caldicott's idealism and in the capacity for betrayal among competitors in the causes she espouses?treachery to which the naivete that helped stir her audiences left her exposed. "I was devastated," she confesses, "that dishonest dynamics could operate within one of the leading peace organizations of the country." Caldicott has a flair for humane causes but not compelling prose. Only partisans are likely to plow through to the end. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 6, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This autobiography by Helen Caldicott is stunning in the information it offers. Caldicott is one of the most important women of our century and her discussion with Ronald Reagan's daughter is worth the price of the book alone. Caldicott as a nationally renown antinuclear activist --full of knowledge and bravier in her cause, had the credentials and intelligence to fight the good fight and her memoir of her adventures in doing so opens the eyes wide and fills the mind with jarring reality. She is a life saver, a gift to our salvation on earth--a woman one wants to know and understand and empathize with. Blessings on this book. Buy it. It will light up your mind with her intelligence and caring spirit. All of her books are vital as can be. Buy them. Read them and share them. Daniela Gioseffi, Author of WOMEN ON WAR: International Voices for the Nuclear Age, American Book Award, 1990
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David J. Loftus on January 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I wavered between giving this three and four stars, but decided on three stars for folks who don't know anything about Caldicott. Those of us who are either already fans of her personally, or care deeply about anti-nuclear and environmental issues, would more likely give it at least four stars. Dr. Caldicott is an inspiration to anyone who either wants to make a difference in the world, or fears that no one person can. She started on her anti-nuclear campaign as an Australian pediatrician and concerned mother -- writing an angry letter to the editor about French nuclear tests in the South Pacific (which did not get published) -- and went on to found Physicians for Social Responsibility and to inspire millions. I've seen Dr. Caldicott speak twice, and she's a marvel. She has authored other books, _Missile Envy_ and _If You Love This Planet_ among them, about more specific issues; this is a very personal account, in which she is honest about her failures, disappointments, setbacks, loneliness, and fear of death. But it is ultimately a triumph of the will and spirit. I wish her many more years of health, happiness, and successful activism.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. Bell on August 27, 2011
Format: Paperback
Helen Caldicott tells her story on two levels: her fight against uninformed, uninterested and unmotivated politicians ( and the public at that time) to expose the dangers of nuclear energy - and her disarmingly honest look at the toll such a fight took on her marriage and family. I found her book fascinating in both relms. It educated me about the terrible danger to the miners and others exposed to the minerals used in these plants. It frightened me to think of what is happening now in Japan and what dangers those people are experiencing - perhaps not wholly disclosed by the nuclear power plant officials.
But equally interesting were all the psychological insights into her family and herself that Dr. Caldicott so generously and with deep honesty shares. Many many thanks to this scientist for her dedication and humble forthrightness. There is so much wisdom in this book...
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Alan Nicoll (real name) on April 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
An unexciting, uninvolving autobiography. Where's the "passion"? The history is interesting to a point, but the nitty-gritty seems to be lacking. Given Caldicott's powerful speech making and her powerful writing in If You Love This Planet, this desiccated book is a big disappointment. People and events simply don't come alive here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steven H. Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on December 18, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Helen Mary Caldicott (born 1938) is an Australian physician, author, radio show host, and anti-nuclear advocate, who has also written Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer, War in Heaven: The Arms Race in Outer Space, If You Love This Planet: A Plan to Save the Earth (Revised and updated), Nuclear Madness: What You Can Do, etc.

She said in the first chapter of this 1996 book, "I have ... an intense and unreasonable fear of death, which has plagued me all my life. Clearly this is one of the reasons I decided to study medicine." (Pg. 15) After a life-threatening illness, she thought, "I knew that I had been saved for a reason. My life in a strange way almost didn't belong to me anymore. I felt that I would be called upon to act in service, not to myself or even my family but to something greater." (Pg. 96) While studying intensely for a medical exam, she admits, "Often I sent the kids out of the room when they needed me because I required absolute quiet in order to concentrate ... I feel bad about this now, and I wish I hadn't been so single-minded and had given them the time when they needed it. After all, what was more important, my career or my children?" (Pg. 130)

Of her December 1982 meeting with President Reagan, she wrote, "It had been the most disconcerting hour and a quarter of my life. Reagan reminded me of ...
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