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

RECOLLECTIONS

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

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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