Fraser’s study of the “reasonable” confrontation between Commons, Lords and Crown is engaging, elaborate and elegantly...



The dame of British historical biography picks her way gingerly through the cluttered details of Parliamentary reform.

Biographer and novelist Fraser (Must You Go?: My Life with Harold Pinter, 2011, etc.) has so thoroughly enmeshed herself in the machinations and personalities of the leaders surrounding the debate for the first great Reform Act of 1832 that she often neglects to see the forest for the trees. She does convey the sense of national urgency compelling leaders like the Whig Lord Grey to pursue the bill, which was a long-running attempt to reform Parliament by addressing the medieval, unequal distribution of seats, eliminating “rotten boroughs,” or defunct areas with decreased population, and expanding enfranchisement—at least somewhat. Fraser views England at a crucial “crossroads” during this period, beset by the convergence of historical forces that would play out in the heated two-year debate over the bill. The nation was in the throes of the Industrial Revolution, creating newly populous towns like Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds and a prosperous new middle class. As the horrors of the French Revolution were receding from memory, another revolution in France carried off the latest Bourbon king, Charles X, and installed the populist Louis-Philippe, thus demonstrating yet again the power of the masses, delighting the Whigs while alarming the Tories. In England, the bloated, ailing George IV died in June 1830, ushering in his more people-friendly younger brother William IV. Moreover, the recently passed Act for Catholic Emancipation, which gave Catholics the right to vote in elections and stand for Parliament, had riven the Tory government. Consequently, reform was in the air, and the author masterfully evokes the arguments propounded over the several sessions of Parliament by the patricians of the day.

Fraser’s study of the “reasonable” confrontation between Commons, Lords and Crown is engaging, elaborate and elegantly wrought.

Pub Date: May 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61039-331-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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