The real value of this work is in the recounting of the ends of two classes, the lower and the very upper.

BLACK DIAMONDS

THE DOWNFALL OF AN ARISTOCRATIC DYNASTY AND THE FIFTY YEARS THAT CHANGED ENGLAND

TV producer and director Bailey (The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery, 2012) uses the downfall of the Fitzwilliam family to examine the history of the coal industry in England.

The author’s remarkable story primarily covers the time of the seventh Earl of Fitzwilliam, who inherited the title in 1902. She shows how class differences and the effect of two wars, strikes and the final blow of the postwar Labour government brought down many of the aristocracy. The Fitzwilliams lived at Wentworth House, one of England’s largest privately owned homes. Bailey uses accounts of the miners and their families to describe both the lives of the wealthy Fitzwilliam family and those of the poverty-stricken laborers. Low pay and long working days were hard enough, but when times were bad, the corporate mine owners cut pay and shortened the work week. After World War I, German reparations included providing free coal to the European victors, undercutting the English market and halving the earnings of the miners. The Fitzwilliams, especially the seventh Earl and his wife, were particularly well-liked, as they continued a feudal tradition of caring for their workers. “Lordie,” as he was known, insisted on maintaining the latest safety measures. During the long coal strike of 1926, they fed all the local children, organized games, created work on their other estates and even provided coal. The ruin of Britain’s stately homes and the end of coal as a primary industry were due to the steam engine, better transport and refrigeration, as well as the increase in inheritance taxes from 15 to 50 percent. Wartime nationalization of the mines and sequestration of estates served as the final blows. Gossipy bits—e.g., questioned legitimacy, grand entertainments and “Kick” Kennedy’s marriage to the Devonshire heir and subsequent affair with the ninth Earl—keep the reading lively.

The real value of this work is in the recounting of the ends of two classes, the lower and the very upper.

Pub Date: Dec. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0143126843

Page Count: 520

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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