THE GREAT HILL STATIONS OF ASIA

New York Times correspondent Crossette’s tour of colonial hill towns is sharp, rooted in historical context, and smartly delineated. Ootacamund, Darjeeling, Simla, Murree, Dehra Dun—all are hill stations, draped like a high-altitude swag from Pakistan to Indonesia, relics of a colonial past that hungered for relief from summer heat and lowland disease, that yearned for a touch of home, for its architecture and institutions: club and church and library, brewery and boarding school and adultery. Curious as to how the hill stations were faring, Crossette visited 19 of them. Here she traces their histories, draws from a rich literature, interviews long-time residents, tenders her own observations as a journalist who has witnessed hill-town transformations—and the rebellions and environmental confrontations accompanying them—over the last few decades. There is promiscuous Mussoorie, “created for pleasure, not work,” and down-on-its-luck Darjeeling; she calls upon egalitarian Kodaikanal, a product of American missionaries in the Palni Hills of India, where snobbery and rank were irrelevant, and she hies to capacious Maymyo in Myanmar (which Crossette persists in calling Burma); then to the east, to the Malaysian hill towns, with Cameron Highlands soldiering on with its tidy atmospherics, a freeze-frame of times long gone. She also visits Dutch Indonesian stations—Bogor, Bukittinggi, Brastagi, each brooding and melancholic, pervaded by a “potentially violent unease” that Crossette finds marking current Indonesian society—and the French town in Dalat, its villas now being faithfully restored. Lastly, it is to doomed Baguio in the Philippines, a Poconos-styled American construct, now destined to become a golf resort. Crossette’s writing is quietly evocative, her research sprawling, her opinions right on the surface. She is mesmerized by hill towns and she makes their magic palpable. (10 illustrations)

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8133-3326-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1998

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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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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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