An enjoyable tour with a genial, informed, devoted docent.



A nostalgic account of life at English country houses during the interbellum era.

Tinniswood, who has written frequently about English cultural history—from pirates (Pirates of Barbary, 2010) to architecture (The Arts and Crafts House, 1999)—returns with a richly researched story about the rise and fall and transformation of country-house living, the effects on same of World War I and the arrival of World War II, and numerous other aspects of the phenomenon. In each chapter the author focuses on a different perspective: the emergence of the country house, country-house living of the royals, various restorations of some places that date back to the Elizabethan era, the arrival of moneyed Americans, upstairs/downstairs stuff, and the changes wrought by more bohemian occupants. Tinniswood teaches us about shooting, hunting, tennis, and golf (some owners built links on their grounds). We learn a lot about the designers, remodelers, occupants, and sales and purchases as well as the endless array of names of these places: Castle Drogo, Gladstone Park, and the like. The author does not suggest that there is anything untoward about any of this vast wealth in the midst of vast poverty, probably calculating that this is the sort of text that will appeal to the myriad viewers of Downton Abbey. Tinniswood includes plenty of engaging details and amusing anecdotes—e.g., one owner’s idea for stringing electrical wires: “they prized up a floorboard at one end and dropped a dead rabbit into the void; then they prized up a floorboard at the other end and unleashed a ferret, with a string tied to his collar. When the ferret had managed to negotiate the joists and reach the rabbit, the string was used to pull through a cable and, hey, presto! The problem was solved.” Although there are many pictures and illustrations throughout, readers will surely wish for more images of these remarkable dwellings.

An enjoyable tour with a genial, informed, devoted docent.

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-465-04898-4

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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