A sensitive, informed rendering of the wrenching reformation of the South.



Levine (History/Univ. of Illinois; Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War, 2005, etc.) examines how the slaveholder republic of the Confederacy collapsed.

Early on in this splendidly colorful account, the author compares the old South’s disintegration to “The Fall of the House of Usher,” where microscopic cracks in the mansion’s foundation gradually widen until the building implodes. He extends the Poe-themed metaphor in a later chapter, invoking “The Masque of the Red Death,” when the Confederate elite of Montgomery and Richmond madly partied at splendid balls in 1864-1865, even as their civilization lay in ruins. Levine acknowledges that a force of arms was necessary to bring the South to its knees, and he frequently alludes to military developments that marked the South’s unfolding destruction. But how the confident exuberance of the secession spring turned into the bitter resignation of Appomattox is more than simply a story of battlefield reversals. War exposed Southern political, social and economic deficiencies in ways unanticipated by Confederate leaders. The increasingly bloody, expensive conflict shattered any number of illusions: about slaves’ faithfulness, white Southern unity, cotton’s supremacy, the unimportance of financial and industrial power, divine favor, unwavering martial spirit and Northern fecklessness. The war’s stresses and strains widened fissures between Jefferson Davis’ government and the economic elite, between master and slave, between plantation whites and the poor who shouldered a disproportionate share of the conflict’s burdens. Ironically, the enslaved third of its population, second only to land as a source of Southern wealth and the war’s proximate cause, emerged as Dixie’s “greatest and most severe structural weakness.” As the Northern armies advance in the background of his narrative, Levine recounts this tale of Southern institutional rot with the ease and authority borne of decades of study.

A sensitive, informed rendering of the wrenching reformation of the South.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6703-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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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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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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