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Buckley and Mailer: The Difficult Friendship That Shaped the Sixties
Buckley and Mailer: The Difficult Friendship That Shaped the Sixties
by Kevin M. Schultz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.30
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Opposites, Opponents, And Friends., June 30, 2015
The 1960s were a time of tumult and change in the United States. Standing athwart in those years were two men, one shouting "Halt!" while the other cried "Forward!"William F. Buckley, the epitome of the East Coast prep-school/Ivy League WASP (with a dash of Irish) stood for conservatism, while Norman Mailer, also an Ivy Leaguer but with a rougher and much more plebeian cast, was at the vanguard of the counterculture. Although politically and culturally Buckley and Mailer were very much in opposition, nevertheless they found common ground in their disapproval of America's Liberal Establishment. This agreement led to their becoming and remaining friends, even while they clashed in public debates and criticized each other in their published writings. Kevin Schulz's fine new history of their friendship sheds light on both men, revealing both their strengths and their weaknesses.

Buckley and Mailer first came into regular contact in the early 1960s. Buckley had already written several books and, as founder of the National Review, was one of the most well known conservatives in the country. Mailer was a successful novelist and political writer who was one of the Left's most colorful spokesmen. After a public debate they became close friends. Buckley and his wife Pat often invited Mailer and his wives (he went through a series of marriages and divorces) for visits and sails at their Connecticut home, and Mailer reciprocated whenever his messier household affairs allowed. Their friendship survived despite their multitudinous disagreements on civil rights, Vietnam, and other issues. They were friends and acquaintances with a galaxy of such well known figures as Truman Capote, Martin Luther King, Robert Lowell, and many others. Eventually both found themselves left behind by the changes they had helped to launch: Mailer because he had no sympathy with the increasing nihilism of the American Left, and Buckley because his style of patrician conservatism did not merge well with the populism of the New Right. The two men died within months of each other in 2007-08, leaving a giant hole in American intellectual life.

This was a fascinating book, not just in its biographies of Buckley and Mailer but also in its coverage of the civil rights and anti-war movements. I remember watching both men on television in the 1970s and 1980s and reading and enjoying their prolific literary outputs. Schulz has done a good job capturing their personalities and magnetism . In these days of chronic political gridlock and conflict it's good to be reminded of a time when men who disagreed with each other could still respect and be friends with each other.


Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir
Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir
by Wednesday Martin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.39
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hunter-Gatherers, Bonobos, And The One-Percent, June 29, 2015
The Upper East Side of Manhattan is one of those rarified areas that are legendary, not so much for their physical beauty or interesting features, but because of the sort of people who can be found there. The region of upper Manhattan bounded by Central Park and Madison and Park Avenues is the home of some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world, and the inhabitants have their own codes of behavior and decorum. When Wednesday Martin, her husband, and their two young sons moved to the Upper East Side in the early 2000s they found themselves in unfamiliar waters. Martin's quest to make a place for her and her family in their new environment was aided by her background in anthropology and literature, and her memoir of that quest makes for amusing and enlightening reading.

Wednesday worked hard to make a place for herself and her family in their new environment, driven foremost by the need to ensure that her sons would have friends and be accepted. Much as baboons and capuchin monkeys strive to impress members of a foraging tribe they hope to join, Wednesday made it her mission to emulate and become friends with the women whose children attended the same pre-school and played in the same parks as her sons. She had mixed success, quickly making friends with some women but finding others unapproachable. She eventually made a place for herself by copying the other women's clothing, hair, exercise, and handbag patterns.

Thus far Wednesday's story is amusing and ironic, told in a deadpan style that parodies anthropological studies of other primates. But as she spent more time with these women she began to see cracks in the veneer. Although many of them were accomplished and highly educated, few of the wives she met had careers or incomes of their own. They were dependent on their wealthy husbands and parents for the money that seemed to make their lives so easy. Many were in constant fear of losing their husbands and their social positions, or of their husbands' losing their jobs and the money that went with it. Nor, as Wednesday herself discovered in the final two chapters, were they immune from sorrow and tragedy.

I enjoyed Primates of Park Avenue very much. I've walked through the Upper East Side a few times, noticing some very elegant looking people and some beautiful buildings, but I never had much idea of what really went on inside those doormen guarded entrances. Until I read this book I had no idea of the difference between a Hermes Birkin and a Hermes Kelly, nor of why one was more desirable than another. Nor did I realize that some exercise classes have higher social rstatus than others. It was a revelation to me that pre-schools could cost $35,000 a year, and that the best way to be sure your offspring got off to a good start in life was to see to it that they went to certain schools, had certain play-dates with certain other children, and so on. But most of all I appreciated the frank way in which Wednesday wrote of a tragic period in her own life during which those apparently vapid and narcissistic women she'd been associating with rallied around her and offered her their love and support.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 30, 2015 4:25 PM PDT


The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams
The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams
by Carol Zaleski
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.37
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meetings Of Great Minds, June 20, 2015
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During the 1930s and 1940s a small group of intellectuals at Oxford University held twice weekly gatherings to unwind, chat, discuss the news of the day, and most importantly to hear, read, and criticize each other's writings. Never formally organized, without bylaws and officers, the men (no women were allowed to attend) sparked debate and discussions among themselves that were to have long lasting and ongoing consequences for our world and culture. They were the Inklings, and their stories have often been told separately or in some combinations. The Fellowship is a lengthy, copiously referenced, and enjoyable group biography of four of the most important Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams. Other Inklings like Major Warner Lewis, Hugo Dyson, Nevil Coghill, Lord David Cecil, and others are covered as well.

The Zaleskis emphasize that most of the Inklings were of an age to have been directly affected by World War I, and that much of what was to come from them was influenced by that conflict. Another major influence was Christianity. The four Inklings most thoroughly covered here were deeply religious men: Tolkien the Roman Catholic, Williams the Anglican mystic, Barfield the Anthroposophist, and Lewis, who went from early belief to atheism and then returned to Christian faith. The Inklings were also united in their devotion to Northern mythologies and so-called "high style," in counterpoint to post-war modernism and the influence of Bloomsbury. Thus their Thursday evening meetings in C.S. Lewis' rooms at Magdalen and the Tuesday morning continuations at The Eagle and Child pub both enhanced and strengthened their desire to revive and give new life to ideas that were in danger of being lost. In large part that desire has been successful, though the Zaleskis admit at the end that the Inklings' "permanent place in Christian renewal and, more broadly, in intellectual and artistic history, is for the future to decide."

I enjoyed The Fellowship. Having been a fervent reader of J.R.R. Tolkien for over forty years I was already familiar with his biography, though I found much here that was new to me. I have also enjoyed C.S. Lewis' works, and I appreciated reading the Zaleskis' sometimes critical analyses of his thinking. I am less familiar with Charles Williams and Owen Barfield's writings, but the Zaleskis have inspired me to seek out more about them. Perhaps the most important result of the Zaleskis' work is a fresh appreciation for those Inklings meetings that helped give us so much that is beautiful.


The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food
The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food
by Adam Gopnik
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.30
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Bit Off Gopnik's Best, But Still Superb, June 14, 2015
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To see Adam Gopnik on the byline of a New Yorker article is to realize that you are in for a treat of fine writing and trenchant observation. The same thing can be said of his earlier books Angels and Ages, Through the Children's Gate and From Paris to the Moon, all of which are kept on my favorite "close-at-hand" shelf. In many ways The Table Comes First echoes the best of Gopnik's work,especially in his meditations on the meaning and significance of food, its conception, preparation, and above all, consumption. (This book should not be read by anyone who is on a strict diet!).

Nevertheless I do feel there are some weaknesses in this book that are not characteristic of Gopnik's best writing. His meditations on the art of fine cooking and dining are indeed enticing, but they do tend to wax overlong at times and indeed become somewhat repetitious. I enjoyed much of his history of the development of the modern restaurant during the French Revolution, but I was disappointed that he didn't carry that history on with as much fine detail. And unfortunately "Family" and "France" take something of a back seat to "the meaning of Food" as far as emphasis and development go.

I did enjoy The Table Comes First very much, especially its reiteration of something that I had forgotten: that so much of what we now consider fine cuisine has its origins in the simplest of peasant cooking. This is a book to be read and savored, and if not kept on a shelf with your cookbooks, at least kept comfortably close by.


The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland
The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland
by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.77
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eternal Childhood, June 10, 2015
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"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and its sequel "Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There" were published in 1865 and 1871, but they are still widely venerated as essential parts of the Golden Age of Children's Literature (which can be dated from the mid-nineteenth century through the 1920s). Unlike other authors whose works are part of that era like Kenneth Grahame, E. Nesbit, or A.A. Milne, Alice's creator Charles Lutwidge Dodgson or Lewis Carroll had no children of his own. But like yet another Golden Age author J.M. Barrie, Carroll did have contacts with children who inspired his creativity, the most influential of them being Alice Pleasaunce Liddell. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst's new biography of Lewis Carroll is also a biography of Alice herself, as well as a chronicle of the beginning, development, and ongoing influence of the worlds he created for her. Scholarly and highly readable, The Story of Alice should become a standard reference for all lovers of Wonderland.

Many times authors are believed to be writing out of the pain of miserable childhood experiences. This is not the case with Charles L. Dodgson, the oldest son of a large family born to a Church of England clergyman. Thorughout his childhood he loved to write and stage manage plays and other entertainments for his siblings. Tall, shy, and with an embarrassing stammer or lisp, Dodgson did not enjoy his years at prep school and at Rugby, not really beginning to blossom until he matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford University, in 1850. There, although he found the college hidebound and in need of reform and the students more interested in socializing than academics, he demonstrated such abilities in Mathematics that he was guaranteed a scholastic career. He remained at Christ Church for the rest of his life, an indifferent Mathematics professor but increasingly displaying his writing and dramatic abilities. His shyness and speech impediment made it easier for him to find friends among children than adults.

This was important, because shortly after Carroll began his Oxford career the new dean of Christ Church, Henry George Liddell, moved into a house whose garden was overlooked by Carroll's windows. Carroll befriended the Liddells and became a companion of their three elder daughters, especially the middle one, Alice. On July 4, 1862, Carroll and another friend took the Liddell daughters rowing, and to entertain them he began to spin a tale about rabbit holes and secret gardens. Eventually he wrote down the story, revised it for publication, and found himself famous. Carroll continued to write fantasies and other stories that displayed his sly, gentle, humor as well as more ponderous publications dealing with Mathematics. He took up and became very good at photography, making a specialty of so-called "fairy photographs:" young girls either naked or barely clothed. This, along with his lifetime habit of befriending young girls, has caused a shadow to fall over his reputation. Douglas-Fairhurst does his best to resolve the questions of just how innocent Carroll's intentions were, but like his other biographers can come to no firm answer. Carroll's family destroyed some pages of his diaries, and some of the volumes dealing with the most important years of his friendship with the Liddells are missing. All we can say with certainty is that no accusations of improprieties were ever made against Carroll by any of his children friends.

After gaining fame Carroll's academic career continued, intermixed with his photography hobby and the necessity of managing his "Wonderland Empire." He was an early merchandiser of his creation, encouraging and sometimes inventing things like biscuit tins and stamp holders that used John Tenniel's illustrations for his books. He helped oversee some early dramatizations as well. For her part Alice Liddell grew up, gradually distanced herself from her old friend, married a wealthy but rather dull man, and spent the rest of her life in comfortable domesticity. She and Carroll met occasionally, and when he died in 1898 she sent a beautiful wreath for his grave. She made a visit to the United States where she was lionized, then quietly passed away in 1934.

Besides the biographies of Lewis Carroll and his heroine Alice, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst has also chronicled Wonderland. He traces elements of Carroll's fantasy to such diverse places as the Victorians' fascination with the underground world and to the earliest science fiction writings. A Professor of English Literature and Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, he is within a few minutes' walk of many of Carroll and the Liddells' favorite haunts and homes. I found his final chapters and Epilogue, in which he discusses Carroll and Wonderland's ongoing influence, especially interesting. I first read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland when I was 7 or 8, and I still remember the charm and fun of the story. I've reread it and Through the Looking Glass many times since then and have always found that same sparkle. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst's biography has much of the same enchantment, and I know I shall reread and refer to it many times.


The Disinherited: A Story of Family, Love and Betrayal
The Disinherited: A Story of Family, Love and Betrayal
by Robert Sackville-West
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.97
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sins Of The Fathers Are Visited Upon The Children, June 7, 2015
The Sackville-Wests are an aristocratic English family whose history dates to the Norman Conquest. They possessed titles, held high office, owned enormous tracts of land, and occupied some of the most magnificent houses and castles in Britain, most notably Knole, an enormous pile in the south of England. Naturally any family with so long a history will have more than its share of black sheep and other disreputables to balance out the "great and the good." Robert Sackville-West is the present Lord Sackville and owner of Knole. In The Disinherited he brings to light one of the more tawdry episodes in his family's long history: a scandal involving romance, illegitimacy, and a scandalous court battle over an inheritance. It's a fascinating tale which serves once more to remind us that wealth and high status are no guarantees for happiness or honorable behavior.

The sordid tale begins with young Lionel Sackville-West, a man of no particular talent or distinction beyond his name, who in the mid-nineteenth century joined the British diplomatic service. While serving in a minor post he encountered and fell in love with a vivacious Spanish dancer, known as Pepita, whose background was common and who had an even more common husband. Notwithstanding these complications, Lionel and Pepita conducted a long liaison that produced two sons and three daughters. Partly out of concern for the proprieties and partly out of sheer indolence Lionel never fully clarified his children's parentage, registering some as his own but allowing others to be registered as "father unknown" or even as the offspring of Pepita's absent husband. When Pepita died suddenly things became even more complex. Lionel shipped one son off to South Africa, sent the eldest daughter to convent school, and kept the other son and daughters more or less in limbo. All the children grew up thinking they were probably illegitimate, but with sufficient doubt in the matter to keep their positions unclear, both to them and to their father's own relatives in England.

The question of the children's legal status became very important when Lionel inherited the title of Lord Sackville and ownership of Knole from his brother. If they were legitimate they were heirs to a fortune and noble status, but if they were illegitimate they could expect nothing from their father's famly. Characteristically Lionel did nothing to clarify the situation, and upon his death a huge row began. His eldest son in South Africa had never believed himself legitimate and made no claims on his father's estate, but the younger son Henry, whose birth had actually been registered as legimitate, began a long legal battle to claim the title of Lord Sackville and the property pertaining to it. This was even more complicated because Lionel's oldest daughter Victoria had married her cousin, now Lord Sackville and owner of Knole. The legal fight went on for years and ended with Henry's defeat, with consequences that affected all of Lionel's descendants. Henry and his two younger sisters, who had supported his cause, came to tragic and disreputable ends. Max, the oldest son, lived a sad and increasingly penurious life in South Africa, while Victoria suffered from an unfaithful husband and numerous emotional and mental problems. All but one of Lionel's grandchildren led obscure and unhappy lives, the exception being Victoria's daughter Vita Sackville-West, the great writer who with her husband Harold Nicolson created the beautiful gardens at Sissinghurst in Kent.

This is a very personal tale for Robert Sackville, who often refers to "my great-grandfather" or other relations in the text. (He is descended from a younger brother of Lionel's). He tells it clearly, with a good eye for all the drama and mystery with which the tale is enmeshed. It's a sad chronicle of a man who was in love with a woman whom social pressure and the law made it impossible for him to marry, whose children's status was questionable due to the law and to his own lackadaisical attitude, condemning those children and their progeny in turn to frustrated and unhappy lives. Readers who find this story fascinating will also enjoy Piu Marie Eatwell's The Dead Duke His Secret Wife And The Missing Corpse.


How I Shed My Skin: Unlearning the Racist Lessons of a Southern Childhood
How I Shed My Skin: Unlearning the Racist Lessons of a Southern Childhood
by Jim Grimsley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.09
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Past Isn't Dead, It Isn't Even Past", June 4, 2015
William Faulkner's famous statement makes an appropriate headline for my review of Jim Grimsley's memoir of growing up in rural North Carolina as part of the first generation of Southerners to attend integrated schools. The 1954 Brown vs Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that segregation was unconstitutional was only the beginning of a long process that, in many aspects, is still ongoing. Grimsley's schools in Jones County, North Carolina were not fully integrated until over a decade later, a pattern repeated in many areas, both North and South. His memories remind us of how far the country has come, and of how much further we need to go.

Grimsley was already something of an outsider even before integration made him and other white students the minority race in his school. From a somewhat dysfunctional and disadvantaged family, his hemophilia made him delicate and unable to fully join in school activities, and as he reached his teen years he realized that he was gay. These differences isolated him but also sharpened his powers of observation and analysis. His story here consists of a number of short chapters or vignettes roughly covering the period from 1966, when the first black students entered his junior high classes, through his high school years when integration was fully implemented, and on to adulthood. The final chapters deal with his return to Jones County for his 40th high school reunion and document much that has changed, as well as much that has remained the same.

I enjoyed How I Shed My Skin, though parts of it were painful to read. I am a couple of years younger than Grimsley and I remember some of the same issues of integration during my junior high and high school years in Georgia, and as a retired teacher with 29 years experience in the classroom I have to agree with him, sadly, that there is still much that needs to be done.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 8, 2015 4:31 PM PDT


The Ingenious Mr. Pyke: Inventor, Fugitive, Spy
The Ingenious Mr. Pyke: Inventor, Fugitive, Spy
by Henry Hemming
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.88
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I have to behave rather like Nature . . .", June 3, 2015
". . .throwing up a hundred million pollen on the chance that one may do its duty." I chose to begin my review of this fascinating biography with a quote from its subject because it so perfectly describes him. Geoffrey Pyke was a brilliant man with an unquenchable enthusiasm for innovation and creativity. Henry Hemming's new biography of Pyke captures that enthusiasm in both its positive and negative aspects. It makes for a reading experience which is as fascinating (and sometimes draining) as a conversation with Pyke himself must have been.

Geoffrey Pyke was born in 1894 to a brilliant young barrister, who, unfortunately, died when his children were young, leaving them to be raised by their less sympathetic mother. The Pyke's Jewish background meant they had to deal with prejudice and discrimination thorughout their lives. For Geoffrey this meant he was bullied and made miserable at school, but his brilliant mind helped him survive and flourish regardless. He first burst upon the wider world as a Cambridge undergraduate in 1914, when he convinced Reuters to hire him as a reporter. He and a friend slipped into Germany in the first few weeks of World War I, but were arrested and imprisoned. Making a daring escape which involved a long trek across enemy territory, Pyke returned to England, wrote a best-selling book about his experiences, finished his degree at Cambridge, and began a long and colorful career. His metier, more or less, was not only to come up with answers, but also to come up with the questions before anyone knew enough to ask them.

Even the barest of summaries of Pyke's achievements is exhausting. After marrying and then fathering a son he set up a pre-school based on Freudian psychology designed to train young scientists. To have funds to support the school he began to invest in commodities, using his own special tweaks to make himself extremely wealthy within a short period of time. After he was driven into bankruptcy by a cartel determined to take control of the commodities markets, he lived in obscurity for several years until, with the rise of Adolf Hitler, he became obsessed with the problem of finding a way to end anti-Semitism. This involved slipping into Nazi Germany and interviewing its citizens without being noticed by the authorities, something most of us would never dare to do but which for Pyke was merely another problem to be solved.

It was during World War II that Pyke really came into his own. He helped develop the concept for what are now known as Special Forces, came up with some ingenious plans for weapons and battle tactics, entranced leaders like Lord Louis Mountbatten and Winston Churchill,and remained energetic and creative even when his plans were rejected by less imaginative types in the British and US militaries. Unfortunately there was a darker side to Pyke: having been converted to socialism at an early age, his support for greater Soviet involvement in his plans raised the suspicions of MI5, which kept him under watch for years. He consorted with people like Guy Burgess who are now known to have been Soviet spies, and while the question of exactly what and how consciously Pyke did to further Communism remains unanswerable, it does tend to put a shadow over his legacy. After the war ended he continued to identify solutions for problems that many had not even begun to recognize, but his declining health and tendency towards depression led him to commit suicide in 1948.

Henry Hemming's account of Pyke's life is as fast-paced and fascinating as the man himself. It is filled with amazing stories and anecdotes, as well as amusing vignettes, such as a description of Pyke, dressed in business attire and carrying a canary in a cage, strolling down a golf course in Nazi Germany! (The canary was there to distract attention from Pyke's questioning of ordinary Germans about their attitudes towards Hitler's regime and the Jews.) It must have been an incredibly stimulating, if often exhausting, experience to have worked with Pyke in his heyday, and Hemming helps us fell that for ourselves.


Princes at War: The Bitter Battle Inside Britainís Royal Family in the Darkest Days of WWII
Princes at War: The Bitter Battle Inside Britainís Royal Family in the Darkest Days of WWII
by Deborah Cadbury
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.59
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ordinary Brothers In Extraordinary Circumstances., May 29, 2015
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One of the most iconic images from the worst days of the London Blitz shows King George VI and Queen Elizabeth walking through the rubble strewn streets of the East End. Deborah Cadbury's history of the House of Windsor at war rekindles much of the spirit and rhetoric of that dark time but also gives some new perspective on what was going on behind the palace walls between the king and his brothers.

King George VI was an accidental monarch. Born a second son, Prince Albert, Duke of York spent his childhood and youth being overshadowed by his seemingly more accomplished older brother Prince Edward. Albert, who was known as Bertie within the family, had a severe stammer and suffered learning disabilities which made his scholastic career an embarrassment. He served capably in the Navy during World War I and married the buoyant and self-confident Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923. With the help of the speech therapist Lionel Logue he eventually learned to deal with his speech defect, but he was still seen as rather limited and dull by most in British government and society.

Bertie was thrust into the spotlight when his brother King Edward VIII abdicated in December 1936 in order to marry the twice divorced American Wallis Simpson. Taking the throne as George VI, Bertie began a reign for which few, including himself, had much hope. Nor were his two younger brothers considered much better. Henry, Duke of Gloucester, was a bluff and unimaginative man who had made a career in the Army, while the seemingly more talented and charismatic George, Duke of Kent, had a dark history of drug abuse and sexual excess. Complicating things further was the behavior of the former king, now Duke of Windsor, who led an extremely public life with his Duchess doing embarrassing things like visiting Hitler in Germany. When World War II began in 1939 George VI displayed a new side of himself: with courage and resolve he became a symbol of British resistance to Hitler. The Duke of Gloucester worked hard as well, as did the Duke of Kent until he was killed in an airplane crash in 1942. The Duke of Windsor, on the other hand, made a nuisance of himself and wasted his brother and Prime Minister Churchill's time with endless complaints. On a darker note, the Duke and his wife continued to have questionable dealings with German officials and Nazi sympathizers even after war was declared. This led to their wartime exile to the Bahamas and apparently necessitated some hasty scrambling after the war to gather up potentially embarrassing documents which might have revealed that the former king had perhaps committed treasonable acts.

I enjoyed Princes at War quite a bit. I knew quite a bit about George VI and Queen Elizabeth already, and of course there has been plenty of material published about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Even so I found some new and interesting material in Cadbury's book about the intelligence work done by the British and later the Americans to keep an eye on the former king and his wife, as well as other efforts by German spies to gain influence within the British government. Most of all, I enjoyed reading more about the work done by the Dukes of Gloucester and Kent, who usually get overlooked in histories focussing on their elder brothers. Cadbury benefitted from memoirs written by people who knew the younger Windsors well, including that of the Duchess of Gloucester herself, and was able to give a better picture of their service. Inevitably a great deal of the book deals with whether or not the Duke of Windsor knew about or approved of Nazi plans to make him king of a conquered Britain, and just as inevitably can come to no firm conclusions thanks to the destruction or sequestration of some German records.

Princes at War is an entertaining and interesting read. At times while covering the war years Cadbury allows her tone to become somewhat Churchillian, but in the circumstances that seems appropriate enough. In the end this is the story of four rather ordinary brothers who by extraordinary circumstances were placed in prominent positions during a world-changing conflict. Three of those brothers acquitted themselves well and honorably, and their story deserves to be known.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 24, 2015 6:34 AM PDT


Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen
Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen
by Mary Norris
Edition: Hardcover
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Is Why We Love The New Yorker, May 25, 2015
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We who are long time readers of The New Yorker know that part of what attracts us to that weekly magazine with its columns of gray type are the idiosyncratic but endearing little style crotchets that we encounter nowhere else. Mary Norris is a copy editor at The New Yorker, and in this sparkling memoir she explains the rationales for hyphens, dashes, commas, apostrophes, and many other little marks that the English language makes use of to clarify and make more literate our written prose and poetry. The result is a fascinating and unputdownable little book that is part memoir, part stylebook, and always amusing.

There are ten chapters in this slim book of exactly 200 pages plus acknowledgements, notes, appendix, and index, which underscores Norris' earlier work in the collating department of The New Yorker: she learned how to precisely fit text into its allotted space. Each chapter is a delight, not just because Norris is witty and a delight to read, but also because she dispenses plenty of excellent information about proper spelling and usage. For example,I never realized before that there are important differences between dashes, and that a one-em is not the same as a one-en.In fact, I had never thought much about dashes at all, but Norris showed me that they can enliven and clarify, whether it be an Emily Dickinson poem or a thank you note from Jacqueline Kennedy. As a long time comma addict I loved her chapter on their serial or Oxford usage, and I really laughed through her chapters on dirty words and pencil travails.

A few years ago Lynne Truss' Eats, Shoots and Leaves made grammar hilarious. Between You And Me isn't quite as snippy, but it has at least as much valuable information and is just as much fun to read.


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