Quinn, fresh from his exploration of early America in A New World ( p. 535), takes on the early days of gold-rush California through the story of two men whose political and personal rivalry was to end in tragedy. William Gwin was a suave Southerner with a handsome fortune who headed a clique of California Southerners known as the ``Chivalry.'' Quinn amusingly shows how Gwin—determined to get his version of a state constitution through the first state assembly at Monterey and himself elected to the US Senate—had to adapt to the rough democratic manners of California politics. He ceded first place for a while to the coon-skinned frontiersman ``Dr.'' Semple, but nevertheless controlled the assembly from a back seat. David Broderick, on the other hand, could not have been more different: a tough street fighter from the slums of New York determined to lead ``the ignorant and the timid'' against their masters in 1849 San Francisco. While Gwin carefully cultivated his image in political circles, even going so far as to agree to the ban on slavery (while still owning slaves himself back home), rival Broderick joined the firemen of the nascent city and quickly conceived a virulent hatred for the patrician Gwin. For Broderick, as Quinn quips, it was simple: ``Let the Chivalry oppose the Shovelry at its peril.'' The end result was a duel between the two resulting in Broderick's death. Quinn paints an absorbing picture of this strange, hurly-burly society, at once primitive and sophisticated, impoverished and unimaginably wealthy. We see the tent city of San Francisco with its ruthless merchants, Australian street gangs, and its harbor teeming with mastless boats whose crews had run off to join the gold rush. We see the beginnings of modern California—a melting pot of American problems and aspirations. Quinn performs his task in a richly straightforward way, depicting his colorful cast with a keen sense of the delicate meshing of the personal and the historical.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1994

ISBN: 0-517-59573-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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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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