A well-told story of discovery, conquest, business and politics.




Comprehensive account of the first permanent English colony in North America.

Perhaps because its purpose was forthrightly monetary, perhaps because it had the dubious distinction of robustly introducing tobacco and slavery to the country, Jamestown, Va., has never held a place in the nation’s collective consciousness comparable to that of the Plymouth colony. Woolley (The Queen’s Conjurer, 2001, etc.) meticulously gathers and documents all the forgotten details, and while his brilliantly framed narrative remains devoid of any warm, fuzzy uplift, it emerges as fascinating. It’s a wonder the colony survived at all, given its criminal mismanagement, the mutinies and betrayals, famine, disease, withering Indian attacks and the consequent bloody reprisals. Luck surely played a part: Settlers were loaded into ships and just about to abandon Jamestown in 1609, when a longboat rowed up with news of a fleet carrying supplies just arrived in Chesapeake Bay. Certainly, the leadership of tireless explorer, self-promoter and propagandist John Smith was important. Also crucial was the Trinidad tobacco seed planted by John Rolfe, later husband to Christian convert Pocahontas, who made a PR mission with him to England to talk up the colony’s prospects. But the canvas was larger than this tiny beachhead in the New World. Playing a huge, underappreciated role in propping up the beleaguered colony were the reputations and fortunes of the noblemen who established the Virginia Charter and funded the expedition, not to mention the pride of England and the awful prospect of the government abandoning North America to Spain’s Catholic dominion. Woolley effectively establishes this broader context; one of the most engrossing passages here recounts the journey of the Sea Venture, whose ill-fated voyage to Jamestown resulted in the accidental discovery and claim of Bermuda. He illuminates the Virginia colony as part of a larger international game, the stakes of which simultaneously explain and dwarf the sufferings of a few adventurers in a southern swamp.

A well-told story of discovery, conquest, business and politics.

Pub Date: April 10, 2007

ISBN: 0-06-009056-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

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

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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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