This history of sex work is titillating but poorly organized, and it fails to offer a compelling argument.




A chronological history of prostitution in London.

A more accurate title for this book is A History of Prostitution in London, Plus Oscar Wilde. Arnold does indeed address Wilde’s famous trial, as well as Regina v. Penguin Books, which allowed Lady Chatterley’s Lover to be published in England. For the most part, though, the only kind of sexuality addressed is that offered in exchange for money. The book is organized chronologically, which unfortunately means that several opportunities for a more thematic analysis are lost. For example, Arnold discusses both the 1749 erotic novel Fanny Hill and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, published in 1928, but since they were written centuries apart, the author does not analyze their publication and reception together. Similarly, Arnold describes the early Roman Londinium attitude that “while brothels were regarded as a healthy outlet for the male appetite...patrician wives and daughters must be paragons of chastity,” and the Victorian middle-class belief that “the majority of ‘respectable’ women did not enjoy performing their conjugal rites,” yet never analyzes the ways in which cultural perspectives on marriage and female sexuality were tied to the demand for sex workers across historical eras. One theme in the book is the chasm between the sexual behavior of the ruling classes and the behavior they expected from, and often legislated in, the lower classes, but this is more an observation than an argument. The presence of footnotes, a bibliography and an index give this book a semi-academic sheen, but this is not a work of scholarship so much as it is a digestion of the research of others repackaged for a popular audience. As popular nonfiction, it will satisfy readers looking for a salacious historical read, and the scholarly apparatus will enable especially curious readers to do more research.

This history of sex work is titillating but poorly organized, and it fails to offer a compelling argument.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-312-60034-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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