Though uncritical in his admiration for British arms, Allen provides a rousing and informative yarn that will appeal to fans...




Unsung heroes of the Raj get treated to an extended fanfare.

In the mid-19th century, the British army dispatched a corps of soldiers to the Punjab, India’s far northwestern frontier, to fight the feared “Pathans” and other enemies of the empire’s progress. The majority of their officers were young men scarcely in their 20s whose bravery under fire became the stuff of legend. Focusing on half-a-dozen or so of these junior leaders, Allen (who is descended from John Nicholson, the youngest of the lot) offers an approving view of their work as they battle mustachioed brigands and revolutionary firebrands—such as Shahwali Khan (the feared Jafir of the Dagger Hand) and Jehandad Khan of the Tanoli (whose men were “brave and hardy and accounted the best swordsmen in Huzara”). Although young, the British officers assumed positions of great responsibility, challenging for men with much more experience; a 25-year-old named Harry Lumsden, for instance, commanded a force of 3,500 Sikh fighters, while a 29-year-old named Herbert Edwardes led an even larger army of Afghans into combat. Allen attributes these young men’s willingness to fight and die on the distant frontiers of empire to patriotism and religious fervor (“We have to make a leap of imagination from our own faithless age,” he sniffs, “back to an era when the promise of the Heavenly Kingdom for those who had fought the good fight was still very real”), overlooking the possibilities for profit and advancement that followed a pitched battle—to say nothing of thrill-seeking and other less exalted motives for serving the crown.

Though uncritical in his admiration for British arms, Allen provides a rousing and informative yarn that will appeal to fans of Lives of the Bengal Lancers and Gunga Din.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7867-0861-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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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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