A fascinating and historically disturbing journey through an intriguing land of mystery and legend.



An investigation of the cultural history and mythology of “the North,” which “represents a space both real and imaginary.”

German historian Brunner begins by explaining the concept of the North; where it begins is “in the eye of the beholder.” Depending on where you live—North America, Europe, Africa, etc.—your concept of the North will vary. As with the South, Brunner asserts, “over time,” the North “has also become layered with cultural and political meanings, baggage even.” In an engaging, sometimes academic tone, the author analyzes how the idea of the North has evolved over the centuries. Among the many topics he explores are early European fears of Viking raids, the effects of the European obsession with finding a northwest passage to China, and Norse myths and fairy tales. Stories of fierce Vikings continue to fire the imagination despite the fact that “we have only the flimsiest evidence of how men and women of Viking times might have looked.” As demand for products such as whale blubber, cod, and narwhal ivory grew, writes Brunner, the image of the Nordic people shifted from “fearsome barbarians to trustworthy merchants with whom good business could be done.” However, acts of barbarism toward Indigenous populations beginning in the 16th century forever changed their lives. “It was only in the late nineteenth century that Westerners began to develop even a rudimentary understanding of Inuit culture,” and the Inuit were but one among many northern peoples the Europeans encountered. During this time, scientists and romantic travelers also had an increasing interest in seeing the North as opposed to merely reading about it. Yet another shift came following World War I, with an increase in writings related to racial science, which described a “superior” branch of humanity and “channeled interest in the North in an ominous new direction.” Today, writes the author, “the mythical North remains very much in currency,” continuing to inspire writers, environmentalists, politicians, and adventurers.

A fascinating and historically disturbing journey through an intriguing land of mystery and legend.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-393-88100-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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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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A well-documented and enlightened portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt for our times.

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A comprehensive exploration of one of the most influential women of the last century.

The accomplishments of Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) were widespread and substantial, and her trailblazing actions in support of social justice and global peace resonate powerfully in our current moment. Her remarkable life has been extensively documented in a host of acclaimed biographies, including Blanche Wiesen Cook’s excellent three-volume life. Eleanor was also a highly prolific writer in her own right; through memoirs, essays, and letters, she continuously documented experiences and advancing ideas. In the most expansive one-volume portrait to date, Michaelis offers a fresh perspective on some well-worn territory—e.g., Eleanor’s unconventional marriage to Franklin and her progressively charged relationships with men and women, including her intimacy with newspaper reporter Lorena Hickok. The author paints a compelling portrait of Eleanor’s life as an evolving journey of transformation, lingering on the significant episodes to shed nuance on her circumstances and the players involved. Eleanor’s privileged yet dysfunctional childhood was marked by the erratic behavior and early deaths of her flighty, alcoholic father and socially absorbed mother, and she was left to shuttle among equally neglectful relatives. During her young adulthood, her instinctual need to be useful and do good work attracted the attention of notable mentors, each serving to boost her confidence and fine-tune her political and social convictions, shaping her expanding consciousness. As in his acclaimed biography of Charles Schulz, Michaelis displays his nimble storytelling skills, smoothly tracking Eleanor’s ascension from wife and mother to her powerfully influential and controversial role as first lady and continued leadership and activist efforts beyond. Throughout, the author lucidly illuminates the essence of her thinking and objectives. “As Eleanor’s activism evolved,” writes Michaelis, “she did not see herself reaching to solve social problems so much as engaging with individuals to unravel discontinuities between the old order and modernity.”

A well-documented and enlightened portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt for our times.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9201-6

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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