An ornamental study, frustratingly lacking in contextual cultivation.

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THE BROTHER GARDENERS

BOTANY, EMPIRE AND THE BIRTH OF AN OBSESSION

British journalist Wulf (co-author: This Other Eden: Seven Great Gardens and 300 Years of English History, 2005) explores into the personalities that spurred the evolution of the 18th-century English garden.

Renaissance and baroque gardens on the European continent were characterized by smooth lawns, clipped hedges and topiary in a formal, geometrical structure, writes the author. When Thomas Fairchild, already famed for his luxuriant nursery outside of London, developed the first hybrid in 1716, he “set in motion a chain of events so momentous that in time no gardener would ever think about plants in the same way again.” Wulf loosely follows these developments in smart, stylish prose without delving very deeply. “Fairchild’s mule,” a cross between sweet William and a carnation, proved that plants reproduced sexually, an incendiary notion that Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus underscored in his binomial nomenclature. This encouraged gardeners to meddle empirically in their own garden plots, just as Philip Miller’s enormously accessible Gardeners Dictionary (1731), a catalogue of all plants then in cultivation in Britain, transformed gardening from an aristocratic preserve into the passionate pursuit of amateurs. Profoundly influenced by Miller’s dictionary, London cloth merchant Peter Collinson began importing seeds and plantings from the North American colonies, specifically from Pennsylvania, with the help of Philadelphia farmer John Bartram. These floral dispatches, much desired because their hardiness precluded the need for hothouses, continued for more than four decades and helped make the English garden a natural-growing perennial marvel. Another contributor to this sea change was the treasure of botanical specimens brought back from Captain Cook’s South Seas expedition, organized and bankrolled by celebrated botanist Joseph Banks, who was elected president of the Royal Society in 1778. Banks’ economic use of such plants as cotton and the Indian gum tree propelled British industry, but Wulf skirts this crucial subject. She also gives scant attention to the idea of the English garden as an Enlightenment ideal.

An ornamental study, frustratingly lacking in contextual cultivation.

Pub Date: April 3, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-307-27023-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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