Linklater cloaks a valuable history lesson within a dark, dramatic story.

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WHY SPENCER PERCEVAL HAD TO DIE

THE ASSASSINATION OF A BRITISH PRIME MINISTER

The assassination of the British prime minister on the eve of the War of 1812 spirals gradually into a tale of pernicious political intrigue.

In this account of Spencer Perceval’s murder in the House of Commons on May 11, 1812, by the seemingly lone gunman John Bellingham, Linklater (An Artist in Treason: The Extraordinary Double Life of General James Wilkinson, 2009, etc.) bides his time adding key details that amplify the story from one man’s private injury to a nation’s sense of economic outrage. Bellingham started out as a Liverpool trader whose work lured him to Russia in 1804 to import a cargo of timber and iron; however, a snafu resulted in his arrest on debt charges, the result of commercial blackmail by a former partner. Repeated demands to British officials for justice came to naught, and over the next seven years the injury rankled at Bellingham, overtaking all aspects of his life. As the tale widens, Perceval is portrayed as an ambitious Evangelical, nobly born but penniless until marrying well and becoming a driven barrister. Embracing William Wilberforce’s attempts to ban the slave trade, Perceval became prime minister in 1809. His determination to choke the illegal slave trade was essentially destroying international commerce, especially for Liverpool merchants and those who traded with them—namely, the American slavers. The plot thickens as Linklater follows the money: Who was financing the bankrupt Bellingham while he left his wife back in Liverpool supporting the family at her dressmaking business and went to London to plot and carry out the shooting of Perceval? The author creates a challenging mystery requiring some acquaintance with the historical period.

Linklater cloaks a valuable history lesson within a dark, dramatic story.

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8027-7998-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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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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