An intense, incredible story of Russian fortitude and misery.



A history of the Nazis’ death grip on Leningrad artist Dmitri Shostakovich and others.

Before the Germans encircled the city and cut it off from the “mainland” in September 1941, Leningrad had already endured Stalin’s horrific reign of terror and repression during the 1930s. British journalist Moynahan (The French Century: An Illustrated History of Modern France, 2012, etc.) approaches this work with great energy and a solid historical background, sifting through the victims of the NKVD’s brutality with such care and detail that the narrative is sometimes difficult to digest. As one of the city’s most illustrious residents, pianist and composer Shostakovich (1906-1975) had enjoyed tremendous success from his early 20s writing ballets, operas, films and symphonies until 1936, when his work ran afoul of Stalin and was officially denounced in the Leningrad paper as “bourgeois” and “formalist”—i.e., Western-influenced, modernist and lacking the appropriate social realism. Henceforth, the composer was on tenterhooks, as so many fellow artists around him were denounced, imprisoned, tortured and shot. Yet Shostakovich’s work was world-famous, and Stalin recognized his propaganda appeal. With the Nazi tentacles encircling Leningrad, the composer began his Seventh Symphony in patriotic response: “I wanted to create the image of our embattled country, to engrave it in music.” Before he could finish it, however, he was ordered to leave Leningrad with his wife and children; they were airlifted to Moscow and then Kuibyshev, where they enjoyed a comfortable stay for the duration of the war, while his compatriots were starved and weakened by disease and freezing cold. The Seventh debuted to great fanfare in Moscow, London and America, and it eventually found its way back to Leningrad, orchestrated by 100-plus musicians fainting from hunger but resolute for its first hometown performance.

An intense, incredible story of Russian fortitude and misery.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2316-9

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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



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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