In many ways as relevant as the day it was written and great fun to read.

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THE FRENCH REVOLUTION OF 1848 AND ITS AFTERMATH

A shrewd, on-the-ground account of how political change is made—and unmade—by the author of Democracy in America.

Never published in de Tocqueville’s lifetime (1805-1859), his reflections on the collapse of Louis-Philippe’s constitutional monarchy and its aftermath are notable for brutally frank portraits of allies and enemies alike in the struggle to define the Second Republic. The author was staunchly opposed to the socialists who strove to push the new republic to the left, but he was well aware of the weaknesses of those who shared his moderate views. His chronicle of the constitutional commission’s meetings acidly depicts his fellow members as schemers, ideologues, and self-serving bureaucrats incapable of fashioning a workable government. Nonetheless, he discounted the threat of further unrest. “When people claim that nothing is safe from revolution,” he writes, “I say they are wrong: centralization is safe. In France…the one institution we cannot destroy is centralization.” The book is chock-full of such astute observations, which make it valuable reading for any serious student of government. (It is, however, appropriately published by a university press, since anyone unfamiliar with the details of 19th-century French history will be flipping frequently to the Chronology at the front and the Biographical Dictionary at the back.) Adding to its value, the author is seemingly incapable of writing a dull sentence, and he is a master of the cool put-down. Of his pious, family-centered sister-in-law, he writes, “one could not hope to meet a more decent woman or a worse citizen.” Running into two politicians who had contributed to Louis-Philippe’s downfall but were alarmed by the violent demonstrations that accompanied it, he sneers, “never have victors looked more like men about to be hanged.” Although colored by the desire to justify his stint as foreign minister in 1849, his text remains perceptive as it leads up to the coup that launched the Second Empire and ended his political career.

In many ways as relevant as the day it was written and great fun to read.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8139-3901-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Univ. of Virginia

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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...

NIGHT

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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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