Intrepid research translates into a sometimes-intriguing narrative stuffed with mystifying detail.




The dense story of the 1596 endeavor by a powerful, litigious countess to block the opening of Shakespeare’s Blackfriars Theatre in London.

A piece of choice London real estate sent Countess Elizabeth Russell (1528-1609), one of the most learned and fiercely Puritan women in late-16th-century Europe, to petition Queen Elizabeth I’s Privy Council to prevent the opening of the Blackfriars, commanded by the playwright, his troupe, the Chamberlain’s Men, and their patron, George Carey. British Shakespeare scholar and lecturer Laoutaris (Shakespearean Maternities: Crises of Conception in Early Modern England, 2008) gets swept up in the overwhelming detail concerning these characters and their connections—e.g., Elizabeth’s two deceased husbands, one the ambassador to France, Thomas Hoby, the author of the influential Book of the Courtier, which Shakespeare would draw on; the other, John Russell, also a radical nonconformist more than a decade her junior. It was Hoby’s family property in the Blackfriars (formerly a monastery campus) that Elizabeth inhabited from 1570 onward, next to the Office of the Queen’s Revels, the hub of London’s theatrical district and an area that drew immigrant refugees from the ongoing wars of religion. These residents would support Elizabeth’s cause, and there was also the matter that Shakespeare frequently waded into explosive political material in many of his plays—e.g., in his flattery of the queen’s former favoriteturned-traitor, the Earl of Essex, in Richard II. When Elizabeth presented her document to the Privy Council, warning of “all manner of vagrant and lewd persons” consorting with the playhouse, she managed to secure the signatures of Shakespeare’s patron and his publisher, Richard Field. Plodding painstakingly through the research, Laoutaris reveals how Elizabeth's petition exploited the uneasy social conditions created by recent inflation and civil unrest. However, when one door closed, another opened—namely, Shakespeare’s legendary run at the new playhouse, the Globe.

Intrepid research translates into a sometimes-intriguing narrative stuffed with mystifying detail.

Pub Date: June 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60598-792-7

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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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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