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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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