CAVALIERS AND ROUNDHEADS

THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR, 1642-1649

A rollicking, if not always enlightening, narrative history of the English Civil War, by the prolific Hibbert (The American Revolution through British Eyes, 1990, etc.). Hibbert concentrates with some success ``upon what happened rather than upon what brought it about, upon the minor engagements [rather] than the major battles, and upon the impact the fighting had upon the civilian population.'' Neither before nor since has there been a war in England that so swept up everyone in its path: By its end (signalled by the execution of Charles I), nearly 200,000 lives had been lost—80,000 killed in the fighting and more than 100,000 from accidents and disease in plague-ridden towns. Throughout, Hibbert displays an eye for the curious and illuminating detail—quoting poet and playwright Thomas May, for instance, on Cromwell's New Model Army: ``Never did hardly any Army go forth to war with less confidence on their own side.'' The author succeeds in conveying the ruthlessness of war and the fears and anguish of those who fought (``Oh Lord, thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget thee, do not thou forget me,'' wrote one soldier on the eve of battle), and he conveys most of his material with great vividness (the Earl of Newcastle was a ``rich and generous dilettante, skilled horseman, graceful dancer, indifferent playwright, and execrable poet''). But what's sorely lacking is the background that Hibbert deliberately avoids: Why the war occurred; why there was a growth of class consciousness at the time; why religious animosities grew so deep; and how a revered monarchy came to be overthrown. Without this information, Hibbert can't escape the besetting vice of much narrative history—that it so often seems like just one cursed thing after another. (Eight-page photo insert)

Pub Date: June 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-684-19557-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

1776

A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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