An engrossing familial and legal tale told with dash and clarity.




A contested inheritance, kidnapping, murder, revenge, a sensational courtroom trial—this true-life narrative by Ekirch (History/Virginia Tech; At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, 2005) sounds like an old-fashioned adventure tale. In fact, it “inspired at least five novels,” including Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped.

Heir to five estates in Ireland, 12-year-old James Annesley was snatched in 1728 on orders of his uncle Richard, the Earl of Anglesea, and transported across the Atlantic as an indentured servant in Delaware. With the boy out of the way, Anglesea promptly seized his lands. More than a decade later, Annesley escaped and made his way to London, where he set about reclaiming his fortune. Ekirch penetrates the cloud of witnesses at the various legal proceedings to create a fascinating picture of Ireland under its Protestant aristocracy, who were given to gambling, drinking, dueling and fighting lawsuits. Annesley’s father, Arthur, the Baron of Altham, was a typical example, even turning his eight-year-old son out to placate his mistress. Opinion divided over whether Annesley was Altham’s legitimate son or the product of a fling with a wet-nurse, but Altham was angelic compared with Anglesea, whose character, a contemporary noted, was “so bad that nobody will have [anything] to do with him.” The ensuing trial employed the services of one out of every seven attorneys in Dublin, involved the largest estate ever contested in court, set a precedent for attorney-client privilege and lasted the longest of any proceeding in the British Isles to that date. Though Anglesea’s subsequent legal stratagems prolonged resolution of the case past the death of its two principals, the judgment of history has been that Annesley was vindicated. Ekirch provides the necessary context for understanding the characters and events in the tale, including changing courtship and child-rearing practices, the deference that tied poverty-stricken Catholic tenants to landlords and, most important, the kidnapping trade that authorities had difficulty eliminating.

An engrossing familial and legal tale told with dash and clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-393-06615-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2009

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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