A turning point in English history, skillfully distilled for readers four centuries after.


Or, a year of living dangerously in England for champions of the Tudor line, would-be pirates, and civilians susceptible to a touch of the plague.

Many a noted British historian, such as Tudor specialist G.R. Elton, has passed the year 1603 by without much comment, thinking it no more important than any other 12-month period. London-based freelance writer/historian Lee (The Sceptred Isle, not reviewed), undaunted, makes a case for that year as one of those previously unheralded watersheds in the history of the British Isles. After all, it marked the death of Queen Elizabeth and the inauguration of the Scottish King James VI, who became James I of England and set about making all sorts of controversial steps and missteps and opening up the path to civil war later in the 17th century; as Lee writes, “Elizabeth may have commanded the obedience of the people, but James would not—and nor would any sovereign who followed.” Complicating James’s uneasy ascent to the throne was the return of the Black Death, which felled 40,000 English men, women, and children in 1603; it was less catastrophic than previous episodes of the plague, but an added burden in a time of hunger, want, and economic distress. Against this backdrop, Lee populates his stage with vivid characters, including the none-too-pleasant James himself; a rising star named William Shakespeare; and the privateer, ne’er-do-well, and poet Walter Ralegh, whom English writers and historians have lately been discovering. Though Lee falls for a classic schoolboy-Latin trap (“O rare Ben Johnson” has nothing to do with the poet’s uncommonness) and seems sometimes to be channeling a period ghostwriter (“The people of James’s green and pleasant land would prosper and breed as they might anyway have done”), his narrative moves well and neatly weaves many threads.

A turning point in English history, skillfully distilled for readers four centuries after.

Pub Date: April 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-312-32139-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2004

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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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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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