A well-fashioned history of the remarkable Scottish monarchs.

They were “Stewarts,” mythical descendants of Shakespeare’s Banquo, before they were “Stuarts,” writes prolific Scottish novelist and historian Massie (Death in Bordeaux, 2010, etc.). The spelling was changed by Mary Queen of Scots so that it would be easier to pronounce for the French. The clan actually traces its roots in Brittany, with enterprising members crossing the Channel first in the service of the Norman king Henry I. The first Stewart on the Scottish throne, Robert II, weathered the wars of independence against the English, though the Scottish monarchy was much weaker than the English, lacking a similar administrative apparatus. What Cambridge historian F.W. Maitland termed a “mournful procession of the Jameses” followed, with mixed results. Several were murdered early on, though James IV’s marriage to English princess Margaret Tudor in 1503 was significant because it would lead to the Union of the Crowns 100 years later. Queen Mary’s story has been told often elsewhere, and provides the saddest interlude, while her son, James VI, proved the great survivor, an intellectual, solid Protestant and patron of the arts, effectively putting Scotland’s house in order before Elizabeth I’s death invited him to join the thrones of England and Scotland. There is no end to the fascination with the lives of the two truncated Charleses, in turn spurring revolution then restoration, and Massie truly brings these singular characters to life with his felicitous prose. Perhaps the least understood of the clan was Queen Anne, who presided over the Treaty of Union in 1707, possessed principles and stamina yet had no living heir to keep the throne from falling to the Protestant Elector of Hanover, who became George I. A palatable history lesson that might help untangle the royal lineage web for American readers.  


Pub Date: Dec. 20, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-312-58175-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


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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