PositiveThe Boston GlobeIn her explosive portrait of the Trump family, Mary Trump, the president’s only niece, traces Donald Trump’s fear of persecution — along with what she terms his various other insecurities and pathologies such as narcissistic personality disorder — back to its source: his severely emotionally damaged parents ... By artfully recounting anecdotes both juicy and ghoulish, Mary, whose father, Donald’s elder brother, Fred Trump Jr., (known as Freddy), died of alcoholism at the age of 42, documents how early neglect and abuse formed (or deformed) the president’s character ... Mary Trump’s compelling saga of one very unhappy family does more than just provide probing insights into her uncle’s disturbing inner world. It’s also a first-rate primer on the chaotic inner workings of an administration that has shocked the world by failing to take the basic steps required to keep Americans safe during the coronavirus pandemic ... Mary’s eyewitness account, bolstered by her professional expertise, highlights how the president’s pathologies now pose a direct threat to the lives and livelihoods of millions.
Robert A. Caro
PositiveThe Boston GlobeCaro sees his books less as biographies of great men than studies in political power — how it is obtained, how it is used, and how it affects everyday people. The stories he tells are not always flattering to his subjects ... Given Caro’s thoroughness and his willingness to explore his subjects’ flaws, his approach to covering LBJ’s extramarital relationships, which he addresses in a chapter recently excerpted in The New Yorker, comes as somewhat surprising ... it’s disappointing that Caro largely ignores how Johnson abused his power to prey upon his female subordinates. This is precisely the kind of misconduct that the #MeToo movement has exposed as traumatic. This conspicuously stubborn blind spot tarnishes an otherwise exemplary approach to biography.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalWritten like a taut thriller, A Life Discarded is rife with revelations and wrong turns before reaching its startling denouement. The author sprinkles his story with excerpts and doodles from the diary, which he sensitively parses, along with his own illustrations and photographs of relevant people and places. And even though Mr. Masters’s material is dark the book is both humorous and lively ... As Mr. Masters argues, what distinguishes this diary is an utter lack of artifice—and his moving account of this person’s life, as marginal as it may be, can help readers better understand themselves.
Annette Gordon Reed and Peter S. Onuf
PositiveThe Boston GlobeRather than offering the stuff of conventional biography, the authors profile Jefferson by devoting chapters to his views on key concepts such as 'Home,' 'Plantation,' and 'Politics.' Not surprisingly, they keep returning to his central contradiction — that one of history’s most articulate enemies of tyranny owned hundreds of slaves, including his mistress, over whom he held dominion ... While the authors acknowledge that Jefferson was not quite the model parent that he professed to be, they tend to gloss over his severe emotional and interpersonal difficulties, which have led numerous writers to suggest that he may suffered from some chronic mental illness such as social phobia.
MixedThe Boston Globe1944 does not break any new ground, as Winik leans heavily on the archival digging done by other scholars over the last generation...But for the general reader, this dramatic account highlights what too often has been glossed over — that as nobly as the Greatest Generation fought under FDR’s command, America could well have done more to thwart Nazi aggression.