Colonial history that admirably complicates the history of Indian/white relations in Virginia.


Not only did a love-struck Pocahontas not throw herself before John Smith and save his life, but she probably didn’t even like him much.

The English settlers who arrived in Jamestown in 1607 came with high hopes: they trusted that the Spanish, who practically owned the Americas, would leave them alone, and they trusted that the Indians of the York River region would gladly slip into serfdom and keep them fed. The Spanish, in fact, didn’t come calling. But they had before, and the Indians of the Chesapeake Bay region had suffered terribly from their visits. Naturally enough, they suspected that the English and the Spanish had similar designs on their homeland, and Chief Powhatan himself asked John Smith: “In how many daies will there come hither any more English ships?” The Chesapeake people had reason for their suspicions because, writes Townsend (History/Colgate Univ.), John Smith “saw Hernando Cortés as something of a role model, or . . . he at least saw himself as one in a long line of great conquistadors.” And what would Hernando do, given recalcitrant Indians and other frontier rigors? Why, he’d kidnap an Indian princess, in this case Powhatan’s daughter Pocahontas, and then concoct a useful mythology that she had thrown herself at him out of sheer lust. Smith and other “storytellers subverted her life,” writes Townsend, “to satisfy their own need to believe that the Indians loved and admired them (or their cultural forebears), without resentments, without guile.” But, as it happens, the Indians had other feelings, and not long after the death of Pocahontas’s English husband John Rolfe and four years after Powhatan had died, the Indians staged one final uprising, their last hurrah. Townsend writes that nothing Pocahontas herself, who died young, or “Queen Cockacoeske, or others like them” could have done would have saved the native peoples of the region. Yet, she adds, “It is important to do them the honor of believing that they did their best.”

Colonial history that admirably complicates the history of Indian/white relations in Virginia.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8090-9530-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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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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