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am 25. September 1999
Finally, a book for wannabe braindead yuppie-type career oriented women with a case of executive-office envy! Having read the other reviews, I'll add that the Sun Tzu thing isn't the only error in the book. Rubin thinks it was women who invented birth control technology (cheering for the girls...), whereas it was actually male doctors and scientists who did this work. It was women reformers and physicians who opposed birth control early on... She tosses out the term "strong attractors", which is from chaos theory (she's for "constructive" chaos, an oxymoron); unfortunately, it should be "strange attractors". -Guess the scientifically illiterate target female audience would never catch this, but an editor should. Rubin has an obsession with what's called a one-down position, leading to guerilla tactics. It then seems contradictory that she's also trumpeting "women's special powers". As if all that weren't enough, the original Machiavelli was ultimately concerned with the well-being of his land and his people, service to the community if you will. By contrast, Rubin wants *you* to get ahead in the rat race, though I doubt this book would do one any good at being a better rat. Make sure you get that tear-proof mascara for those important meetings...
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Power is one of those areas where writers have looked at the question from a male perspective or a unisex one that seems to be primarily male. To conceive of a book about women grasping and using power was a novel idea that quickly attracted my attention when the book first came out.

I have had the pleasure of sharing this book with many women in business and later discussing the book with them. Clearly, the part of the book where Rubin argues that women should act like women in gaining and using power is very controversial with some women.

The most extreme example of this point in dividing women readers I know is the advice to cry in front of men. Many women feel like this will cost them power, rather than gain them power. Others want to play the game like a man, and don't want to remind men that they are women. Other women feel that they should cry if they feel like it. Why shouldn't they?

So, one of the interesting aspects of this book is that it helps the reader (female or male) to understand more about her or his assumptions about power. My experience is that coming to grips with assumptions is the essential first step to making progress, in this case towards more effective uses of power.

A fascinating aspect of the book is that there are so few female historial characters for Rubin to draw on. Though each one is full of useful insights. I only wish there could have been more.

An argument that Rubin makes is that many men would like women to take charge more. That makes sense to me. Why should women always hang back to see what the men want to do? Certainly, in our company the women who have done best are those who have taken charge. Unfortunately, opening the door and inviting people to step through it to set their own course is not enough for some.

I encourage any woman (or man) who works with people of the opposite sex to read this book and think about its implications. Then use it as a discussion base for helping power be used more appropriately in your organization.

Have a powerfully good time reading this book!
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am 8. Juni 1999
To paraphrase another reader, as a woman and an executive I don't think lies and manipulation are good policy. But that reader and I must have read a different book. The Princessa's advice is quite the opposite: Rubin urges women to be moral, honest and thoughtful. Not to get attached to the outcome to the expense of one's character; and to resist evil. I've had the book for two years. I go back to it frequently, when I feel I'm doing something wrong and can't place my finger on it, when I need a boost, when I need to take a wider view.
I found it easier to forget Machiavelli when reading Rubin: the Princessa, while taking the Prince as a starting point, is not in any way a "reading" of the classic text, nor even a variation. It is an attempt to counter its influence amongst would-be movers and shakers, who, whatever Machiavelli's ironic intention, take his "screw them to rule" advice as gospel.
I found her examples illuminating; given the size of the book, I couldn't expect a detailed dissertation on each character she chooses as a role model - if you want to know Gandhi in shades of grey, read a biography of Gandhi; if you want inspiration from his essential strategy in getting the British to "quit India" without resorting to violence, then you will find it, alongside many other sketches.
This book is not a replacements for our own instincts and learning, nor for more sustained arguments on women and the role of the feminine, rather it encourages us to look at prevailing orthodoxy, and see how this orthodoxy has failed women. For my money, Rubin gets it right - not everywhere, but in the main. And her chapters on power anorexy and tension hit the mark particularly. It has set me thinking in many different ways, it has helped me in others, it has guided some of my decisions to good effect, and it has challenged some of my assumptions. Not perfect in spite of the 5 stars, but a little gem all the same. Sceptics beware - this book is not for you. But if you are open-minded and want more from life than other people's rules...read it, return to it and pass it on.
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am 15. Juni 2000
Power is one of those areas where writers have looked at the question from a male perspective or a unisex one that seems to be primarily male. To conceive of a book about women grasping and using power was a novel idea that quickly attracted my attention when the book first came out.
I have had the pleasure of sharing this book with many women in business and later discussing the book with them. Clearly, the part of the book where Rubin argues that women should act like women in gaining and using power is very controversial with some women.
The most extreme example of this point in dividing women readers I know is the advice to cry in front of men. Many women feel like this will cost them power, rather than gain them power. Others want to play the game like a man, and don't want to remind men that they are women. Other women feel that they should cry if they feel like it. Why shouldn't they?
So, one of the interesting aspects of this book is that it helps the reader (female or male) to understand more about her or his assumptions about power. My experience is that coming to grips with assumptions is the essential first step to making progress, in this case towards more effective uses of power.
A fascinating aspect of the book is that there are so few female historial characters for Rubin to draw on. Though each one is full of useful insights. I only wish there could have been more.
An argument that Rubin makes is that many men would like women to take charge more. That makes sense to me. Why should women always hang back to see what the men want to do? Certainly, in our company the women who have done best are those who have taken charge. Unfortunately, opening the door and inviting people to step through it to set their own course is not enough for some.
I encourage any woman (or man) who works with people of the opposite sex to read this book and think about its implications. Then use it as a discussion base for helping power be used more appropriately in your organization.
Have a powerfully good time reading this book!
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am 6. August 1999
While The Princessa isn't flawless, the author presents some wonderful options for women on how to become stronger negotiators and how to play by their own rules.
The Princessa lightly reflects the ideals of Machiavelli (and often negates them) while lightly presenting historic persons to animate her points. This sometimes comes across as being too superficial and fluffy. More substantial evidence, arguments, and examples would have been a wonderful addition to make this book a more solid guide.
Overall, The Princessa is a good read. I found it entertaining, enlightening, and even empowering. I came away with some new tools and strategies to use in my career and everyday life. Additionally, this book challenged some of my own closely held beliefs on negotiation and women in the workplace, so I appreciate it for what it's worth.
As an aside: To the reader who threw the book to Dorothy Parker - she's been dead since 1967.
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am 30. Juni 1999
I very much enjoyed reading this book and keep picking it up again and again. It lifts my spirits. I gives me the feeling that I'm right about what I believe and that deceit and hatred is not necessary to get what you want.
It's about combining love and war, that they are not opposites, but complement each other, and that your allowing your emotions to be present in everything you do can actually help and not hinder you. It suggests that you can draw on your love to tap your own energy and that you can succeed by loving people, by helping them, by connecting to them, and turning enemies into allies.
This book describes and explains these ideas beautifully. You still have to make them your own and see how to actually apply these concepts yourself, but I think that's the beauty of it. You succeed because you're you, with your own beliefs, strength' and weeknesses, and they all come together. What a concept!!
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am 20. Juli 1998
While reading The Princessa, I found certain ideas about power made me very uncomfortable, which is usually a sign that something is hitting a nerve. I absolutely adored this little book, and like another reader, keep picking it up to go over pieces of it. Obviously, you can't please all of the people all of the time, but I'm amazed at the vehemence with which certain reviews wrote. I thought Rubin's expression of ideas was fascinating, and I think she's a fine writer. I also liked the manner in which she presented these ideas about women and power; like a myth, like a story, like a fairy tale. Seductive but deadly.
I'd save my griping for the drivel John Gray writes; I mean, how many times is he going back to his word processor to "fix up" Mars and Venus?
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am 6. November 1999
This book started out great. In fact, I considered buying it for several of my friends for Christmas. Then I read on. This book is not for women leaders...it is for women "leader wanna-bes"! So much chatter about "proving" your stength to your boss, strategies and tactics. And when she said, "A women who is unafraid to cry, who shows her tears, strenghtens her presence" to her superiors...oh my god! And then, Rubin retorts that "tears are a freedom of speech issue." Then to advise wearing bright colors and big jewlry to "stand out and get attention." What planet and what century is she from? Great start, very poor finish. I couldn't even bring myself to read the last 50 pgs.
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am 1. Juni 1998
When I first saw this book in a local bookstore the inner voice told me to run away--far far away from it. I listened. While on vacation I found I could purchase it cheaper than at home. So, ignoring my first instincts, I bought it.
I should have left it at the shop. The book contains "knowledge" which any person with an iota of common sense already has. It made me angry--not that I wasted perfectly good money on it, but because I felt that the author is preying upon the stereotypical uncertainties of of a few women.
The 45 minutes I took to complete the book are 45 minutes I will never get back. Do not waste your money; do not waste your time.
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am 14. Juni 2000
Here, at last, is the worst book I have ever read and am likely to read. Harriet Rubin has collected a few childish anecdotes and added some misreadings of Machiavelli to produce her " Princessa". It is clear that she has never read "The Prince". It is also clear that she knows little about the women she mentions, including Benazir Bhuto, who is presented as " former President of Pakistan", and Anna Akhmatova. It was a painful read. Fortunately, I skipped a lot. It would have been wiser to skip the whole lot! A Reader from Lndon, Great Britain.
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