A vivid biography of Britain's longest-reigning monarch, with an emphasis on the queen's personal life. When the inexperienced, dowdy Princess Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837, few people expected her to reign until 1901 or to give her name to an entire age. Reconstructing such homely matters as Victoria's daily routines with her dogs, her children, and her servants, veteran biographer Erickson (To the Scaffold: The Life of Marie Antoinette, 1991, etc.) overcomes the remoteness and abstraction of textbook history to demonstrate that Victoria was in some ways very un-Victorian. She had a passionate sex life with her husband, Albert. Although she believed that women had little place outside the home, she played an active, even aggressive role in public life, especially in foreign affairs. However, Erickson does not appear to recognize the dangers of identifying too closely with her subject. Victoria's attitude to her working-class subjects was a mixture of contempt, fear, and romantic idealization. She gloried in her elevation to the title of empress of India, but the Indian people were either unrealistically idealized for their spirituality or furiously vilified as the fiendish murderers of white women and children during the Mutiny of 1857. Victoria's narrow view of the world had important political consequences that Erickson ignores, notably in the case of Ireland. By her stubborn opposition to political rights for the Irish, Victoria helped to block the far-sighted attempt by her prime minister, William Gladstone, to grant them greater autonomy. The consequences of that failure have been tragic. Although a useful introduction to the details of everyday life among the upper classes, this is an unreliable guide to the broader issues of 19th-century British and imperial history. (8 pages b&w photos) (Book-of-the-Month Club/History Book Club/Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selection)

Pub Date: March 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-80765-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1997

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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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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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