A well-presented, little-known sidebar to the struggle for Irish independence.



Civil War veterans plot to win Irish independence by kidnapping Canada.

By the end of the American Civil War, the movement for national liberation was moribund in Ireland, where the populace was debilitated, demoralized, and disarmed in the wake of the Great Hunger 15 years earlier. America, however, teemed with refugees from that disaster, resentful of England and now armed and battle-hardened. What could they do for their native land? Union general Thomas Sweeny of the Fenian Brotherhood had an idea: Attack poorly defended Canada, then still a colony of the crown, and trade the captured territory back to Britain in exchange for Irish independence. What could possibly go wrong? Everything, as it turned out. Under several different leaders, Fenians raided Canada from New Brunswick to Manitoba in several incidents between 1866 and 1871. None succeeded in holding Canadian territory for more than 48 hours; their principal accomplishment was to encourage Canadian confederation as an enhancement to national security. Clearly an enthusiast of Irish nationalism, Klein (Strong Boy: The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan, America's First Sports Hero, 2013, etc.) manages to keep a straight face as he narrates this opéra bouffe of delusional and incompetent commanders sponsored by bitterly competing groups riddled with spies, leading tiny armies against the combined forces of the British, Canadian, and American governments. But there was nothing funny about the costs to idealistic working men in the ranks who paid for these follies with their money and, in a few cases, their lives. The author offers a thoroughly researched and engagingly written account of the leaders of America's feuding Irish émigré groups, earnest patriots all, whose clashing egos and strategies kept their groups splintered and weak. He takes the preparations for the hopeless invasions as seriously as did the men involved, although he knows as well as readers that they are all doomed to humiliating failure.

A well-presented, little-known sidebar to the struggle for Irish independence.

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54260-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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