Staggering changes deftly chronicled by a seasoned historian.

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MIDNIGHT AT THE PERA PALACE

THE BIRTH OF MODERN ISTANBUL

A dense but smoothly recounted history of Istanbul’s transformation from parochial imperial capital to multinational modern city.

A scholar of wide-ranging interests and nimble prose, King (International Affairs/Georgetown Univ.; Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams, 2011, etc.) finds in the history of the Pera Palace—first established in 1892 in what was then a fashionable neighborhood of embassies on Istanbul’s European side of the Bosphorus—an elegant entree into Turkey’s complicated coming-of-age. Around the turn of the century, the city was choked by migration from the countryside, scarred by recurrent earthquakes and fires, and finally crisscrossed by a railroad, an extension of the glamorous new line of the Orient Express. Adapting the Pullman model, Belgian engineer Georges Nagelmackers instituted the European version of the sleeping car for luxurious accommodation on the long trip between Paris and the gateway to Asia, Istanbul. The Pera would offer a continuation of that modern European comfort. The first decades of the 20th century brought cataclysmic change to Istanbul, with the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and occupation by multinational forces at the end of World War I. In this atmosphere, the hotel became the center of Allied administration and its nearby streets, “a shocking testament to Istanbul’s newfound libertinism.” This was not lost on Turkish officer Mustafa Kemal, who rallied the nationalists for a war of liberation, ending with the declaration of the Turkish Republic of 1924. Bought by a Muslim businessman in 1927, the Pera remained a beacon of cosmopolitan licentiousness between the world wars—within a city roiling with bars, alcohol, music and Western films—yet it eventually became part of a shift to a more Muslim, Turkish, homogeneous population that began producing its own popular culture. The emancipation of women, flirtation with leftist ideals, struggle to remain neutral in World War II and use as a transit point for the exodus of Jews posed unique challenges to this vibrant city.

Staggering changes deftly chronicled by a seasoned historian.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-393-08914-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

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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