PositiveThe Wall Street JournalDrawing on the archival riches of the Papers of Thomas A. Edison at Rutgers University, Morris deconstructs the human dynamo ... Morris pays more attention to his subject’s two wives and six children than Edison did ... At first blush, Morris’s upended chronology recalls nothing so much as the movie Groundhog Day, each chapter an uphill struggle—to create a reliable alkaline storage battery, say, or perfect successive versions of the phonograph ... Readers accustomed to lives developing through sequential incident may scratch their heads over the introduction ... More problematic than Morris’s rear-view mirror is the clunky dialect of laboratory research...so many lumps of scientific jargon in the stew of elegant, occasionally waspish prose ... None of this detracts from the author’s singular accomplishment of capturing a quicksilver intellect and conveying, in often luminous language, what it was like to be Thomas Edison ... The sobering realization that these are among the last words we will have from Edmund Morris’s pen only heightens our gratitude for this Edisonian portrait that, in intimacy and insight, constitutes its own Eureka moment. As a legacy, it sure beats an expiring breath in a test tube.
Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalAs ambitious as their protagonists, Mr. Burstein and Ms. Isenberg offer a frankly revisionist \'lesson in myth busting\' ... It’s a fair assessment. So why don’t they loom larger in our collective memory? The authors blame it on voters who stress \'hollow celebrity and contrived popularity\' at the expense of \'competence and rational judgment.\'
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalIn 1940 de Gaulle redeemed French honor by carrying on the war against Hitler, not from occupied France but from makeshift battle stations in London and equatorial Africa. Before and after Liberation he battled apologists for the quisling Vichy regime of Marshal Philippe Pétain as well as French Communists loyal to Moscow ... In May 1958 he came out of a restless retirement to avert civil war over colonial Algeria. Later that year he established the Fifth Republic, tailored to his contempt for party politicians like former French president Albert Lebrun (1932-40), of whom he observed ... finest one-volume life of de Gaulle in English, Julian Jackson has come closer than anyone before him to demystifying this conservative at war with the status quo, for whom national interests were inseparable from personal honor and \'a certain idea of France.\'
RaveThe Wall Street JournalHis improbable rise and breathtaking fall have challenged biographers from William Allen White and Sigmund Freud to Herbert Hoover, Arthur S. Link, John Milton Cooper and A. Scott Berg. Now comes Patricia O’Toole, a deeply empathetic writer justly acclaimed for her lives of Henry Adams and Theodore Roosevelt. More than a global statesman, Ms. O’Toole’s Wilson is a lifelong teacher who seems never to have learned humility ... Ms. O’Toole does full justice to Wilson’s complexities, but it is with the coming of the war that her narrative takes on something close to Shakespearean dimensions. Two-thirds of The Moralist unfolds after August 1914, when a distracted president sat by the bedside of his dying wife and his European counterparts flirted with self-destruction ... It is in the author’s subtitle that Wilson’s larger legacy is defined. However stony the soil of 1919, seeds of Wilsonian idealism and global co-operation would take root in the United Nations, NATO, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Marshall Plan and more contemporary efforts to combat global warming. Despite recent setbacks, and Donald Trump’s helter-skelter challenge to the postwar order, \'the world of the twenty-first century is still more democratic than it was before Wilson threw his moral force against imperialism, militarism, and autocracy.\' It is a fitting conclusion to this elegantly crafted portrait of a president as polarizing as he is consequential.
Blanche Wiesen Cook
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal...the Eleanor Roosevelt who inhabits these meticulously crafted pages transcends both first-lady history and the marriage around which Roosevelt scholarship has traditionally pivoted ... is her Sisyphean labors on behalf of refugees, many of them Jews threatened by the Nazi killing machine, that make ER heartachingly relevant.
RaveThe Wall Street Journal...[a] poignant account of a love affair doomed by circumstance and conflicting needs. Combining exhaustive research with emotional nuance, Ms. Quinn dives deep to convey the differing characters of president and first lady ... Ms. Quinn offers a comprehensive, if sometimes painful, narrative of both women in their later years.