Saturday Evening Book Reviews

Jeffrey Wasserstrom on Jung Chang’s Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China: “When Chang goes further – describing Cixi as a “revolutionary” with life-long progressive leanings, veering into the historical novelist’s terrain with claims about the ruler’s innermost thoughts – she moves on to shakier ground, overstating the significance of archival fragments and memoirs that support her interpretation, while dismissing those that contradict it. In the end, Chang’s most convincing arguments are her least novel, while her most novel assertions are least convincing.” (Financial Times)

Lydia Kiesling on Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch: “…full of class markers, comical names (Kitten), kinds of antiques, and names of schools, so that the reader occasionally has the sense of being bludgeoned with a sledgehammer from some very tony shop.” (The Rumpus)

Darren Franich on George R.R. Martin’s The Princess and the Queen: “…densely packed with warfare, politicking, bloody melodrama, and dragon-on-dragon assault. It reads like Martin’s outline for a Game of Thrones prequel that never was.” (

Maria Puente on Deborah Soloman’s American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell: “As his new and apparently first serious biographer, Deborah Solomon, makes clear in this highly readable, illuminating book, Rockwell was more than an illustrator.” (USAToday)

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