A fascinating, complex, and highly charged saga of the decline of a family, a nation, and a way of life. This is a curious book—one that both satisfies and frustrates in unpredictable ways. Editors Maylunas, a Romanov scholar, and Mironenko, director of the Russian State Archive, clearly present the correspondence, diaries, and excerpts from published memoirs collected here as the stuff of romance, passion, and myth—a ``fairy tale turned into tragedy.'' As the documents here attest, there is no denying that Nicholas and Alexandra enjoyed a lifelong romance, a love deepened by their shared anxiety about their hemophiliac only son, Alexei, heir to the throne. Yet the romantic aspect of these letters makes for dull reading—how many times can one digest passages of this sort: ``My sweet One, how I love you, darling treasure, my very own One.'' The real virtue of this collection lies in the contributions by members of the larger Romanov family and observers—fascinating, colorful, and truly revealing accounts of the political atmosphere of the final tsar's reign. Among the more striking examples is the melancholy recognition by certain members of the Romanov family that they are witnessing the decline of both the dynasty and the Russian nation, and that the two are inextricably linked. Nicholas is the object of damning criticism: The French ambassador Paleologue describes his ``usual apathy.'' Alexandra, the object of great reproach among politicians for her sway over her husband, obliges with the following comment to Nicholas in 1917: ``Our people are idiots.'' Family problems abound, from undesirable marriages to commoners and divorce to homosexuality. The reader gains an impression of the cloistered life led by Nicholas and Alexandra and the disastrous results of their naãvetÇ and complacency. The tragedy revealed in A Lifelong Passion is that if Nicholas had been as passionate and attentive about ruling as he was about being a husband and father, he might just have been able to avoid the fateful demise of his family and his empire. (16 pages color photos, 2 b&w photos, not seen; maps)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-385-48673-1

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1997

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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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