A boon for those who like their history unadorned by obfuscation and legend.



Revisionist account of the once-well-known 1847 Whitman Massacre, an event that helped catalyze the American annexation of Oregon and Washington.

Harden focuses on the mission founded by Marcus Whitman and his wife, Narcissa, a place that became a locus for intrigue and murder. The two Presbyterian missionaries had come with pious intentions but a tendency not to listen to anyone, and they settled not among the more receptive Nez Perce but instead among the Cayuse people. “For eleven years,” writes the author, “albeit with mounting disappointment and bitterness, the Indians allowed the Whitmans to preach, teach, farm, and build on their land.” But on Nov. 29, 1847, a party of Cayuse massacred the Whitmans and 11 other White male settlers. The targets were deliberately chosen; other Whites were left alone. Harden diligently reconstructs the events over the years leading up to the killing, showing how Whitman opened Cayuse territory to White settlers streaming overland across the Oregon Trail without asking the Cayuse for permission to do so. The events were immortalized by another missionary, Henry Spalding, whom church authorities privately suspected of being a psychopath. Whitman had ridden back all the way to Boston to defend himself from church inquiries and secure further support for his growing mission, stopping in Washington on the way. Spalding, whose career was faltering, inflated the importance of Whitman’s trip, imagining that this sojourn in the nation’s capital was the “tale of a pious patriot riding east to save Oregon from the perfidious British.” Harden’s vivid reconstruction illustrates the process of Western mythmaking, beloved of Americans when it paints them in a heroic light; and of cultural collision, with the Whitmans almost willfully ignoring the Cayuse worldview. There’s a strong strand of anti-Catholicism, Know-Nothingism, and racism throughout, too, which lends Harden’s welcome study an unfortunate timeliness.

A boon for those who like their history unadorned by obfuscation and legend.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-56166-8

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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