History on the grand scale, orchestrated by a virtuoso.

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ECSTATIC NATION

CONFIDENCE, CRISIS, AND COMPROMISE, 1848-1877

A sweeping look at the Civil War in the context of its social, cultural and intellectual climate.

Wineapple (Modern Literary and Historical Studies/Union Coll.; White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 2008) begins with a bang: the death of John Quincy Adams on the House floor, after decades of fighting to end slavery. From there, she takes up the narrative of some 50 years of turbulent American history, full of grand schemes, bitter conflicts, brilliant characters and unforgettable stories. Among the plotlines are the effort by Southern slaveholders to find new territories to expand into, so as to preserve the balance between slave and free states in the Senate; the abolitionists’ appeal to higher laws; the rise of transcendentalism, spiritualism and other quasi-religious philosophies; and the settlement of the West. It would be hard for a master novelist to top the cast of characters, who run the gamut from politicians to writers, soldiers, ministers, nurses, journalists and outright frauds. Wineapple covers the grand sweep of history, from the run-up to secession and the war itself to the Reconstruction era and its ultimate betrayal. Secondary plots abound, from plans to annex Cuba to the Indian Wars. Throw in all the quips, slogans, insults and grand sentiments of an age when educated men and women prided themselves on their eloquence, and you’ve got the recipe for a wonderful saga. Wineapple gives all the major players a turn in the spotlight and, in the case of the true giants of the era, Abraham Lincoln especially, their full due. The author effectively draws in all the currents of the time, from popular culture and polemical journalism to the grand literary monuments. Best of all, she brings it together in a compelling narrative that will enlighten readers new to the material and thoroughly entertain those familiar with it.

History on the grand scale, orchestrated by a virtuoso.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-123457-6

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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