A study of burning focus and intimate depth.

“THEY HAVE KILLED PAPA DEAD!”

THE ROAD TO FORD’S THEATRE, ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S MURDER, AND THE RAGE FOR VENGEANCE

Journalist and historian Pitch (The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814, 1998, etc.) recounts the events surrounding Lincoln’s assassination.

The author follows the tragedy from the first attempts on his life at the time of the president-elect’s perilous entry into Washington, D.C., in February 1861, through the release, in 1867, of the assassin’s most ardent supporter, John Surratt, and the scramble by informers to claim the government reward money. To the well-worn record, Pitch contributes several riveting new discoveries he gleaned from scouring private letters and newspaper reports: a mention by the commissioner of public buildings, Benjamin Brown French, asserting that he forcibly restrained John Wilkes Booth in the Capitol rotunda during the second inaugural assemblies; a March 19, 1864, story in the New York Tribune discussing a plot to kidnap the president; and a letter by convicted conspirator Samuel Arnold in which he applied for a job with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton three months after signing on to Booth’s scheme. Booth’s initial plan was to kidnap the president and take him south, but on that fateful night of April 14, 1865, when the president and first lady were watching Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre, Booth decided to kill them both. Chillingly, Lincoln had revealed to his wife and others premonitions of his fate, while Booth had recorded a prophecy by a Gypsy fortuneteller, who told him, “I’ve never seen a worse hand, and I wish I hadn’t seen it.” Pitch describes the grim preparations of the conspirators for trial, and the weeks of confinement and deprivation afforded them before conviction and hanging. Pitch is a patient storyteller, and the well-developed characters, brought to life through diaries, letters and other primary sources, heighten the drama and poignancy.

A study of burning focus and intimate depth.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-58642-158-8

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Steerforth

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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