EAST OF THE SUN

THE EPIC CONQUEST AND TRAGIC HISTORY OF SIBERIA

Well-written, vastly informative history of a largely unknown land, by Bobrick (Fearful Majesty, 1987). Bobrick chronicles a Wild West show played out on the ice and tundra that began with raids by outlaw Cossacks in 1581. By the early 18th century, Russia was bringing the territory under control, setting the stage for Vitus Bering's famous explorations, which culminated in the acquisition of Alaska. Bobrick's descriptions of Bering's unthinkably huge expeditions driving across the ice, through the Aleutians to Alaska, with their doctors, scientists, writers, philosophers—and near-starvation and disasters—come off like a nightmarishly hallucinogenic version of Lewis and Clarke. His depiction of local culture is sophisticated and detailed: ``Among the Chukchi there was no term for `girl' at all, but only for `married woman,' `woman living alone,' and `woman not yet put in use.' '' The author masterfully conveys the waves of immigration and the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway, an achievement on a par with the building of the Panama Canal. Brutality is a constant: The discovery and extermination of the Aleuts are no more horrible than the civil war unleashed after WW I, with psychopathic brigands on one side, possessed zealots on the other. In the background are the prison camps, created by the czars ten years after the 16th-century Cossack invasion, carried forward for profit by Stalin. Powerful and moving—it's difficult to imagine a book that could say much more about Siberia, or say it better. (Sixteen pages of b&w illustrations, maps—not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-671-66755-6

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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