An Age of Sail adventure, pleasantly recounted.



Disregard Robert Louis Stevenson’s rowdy buccaneers, the Disney factory’s lively rascals and those musical lads from Penzance: Here are the real pirates of the Caribbean, and the facts are as colorful and exciting as fiction.

The Golden Age of Piracy came early in the 1700s, when seagoing criminal enterprises reached unprecedented supremacy under leaders like Edward Thatch, better known as Blackbeard. Cruising under black flags (yes, they really did fly the skull and crossbones), they sailed the waters off Barbados, Cuba, Hispaniola and Ocracoke. When not engaged in battle, the transnational outlaws practiced democracy, equitably sharing all sorts of booty, including rum and slaves. Indeed, the life of the lowliest member of a pirate crew was considerably better than that of a mariner aboard a merchant ship, a hand on a commissioned privateer or, particularly, a pressed sailor on any vessel of the British royal navy. Maritime writer Woodard (Ocean’s End, 2000, etc.) tells the story of these swaggering brigands and their complex maneuverings in politics and business. That’s right, business: Blackbeard, for example, sported mighty whiskers done in dreadlocks to inspire terror mostly for the purpose of ensuring that his financial demands were met—and they were, quite bountifully, until he was decapitated by a Scots highlander during a pitched battle aboard a British sloop in 1718. The author captures all the high drama inherent in the peregrinations of warring vessels performing extraordinary feats of seamanship under the direction of artist/navigators. Additional color is provided by cameo appearances by such contemporary notables as Cotton Mather, literary lights Addison and Steele and castaway Alexander Selkirk, the prototype for Robinson Crusoe. Woodard’s thrilling narrative neatly navigates the Caribbean’s dangerous seas. Maybe they really did snarl, “Arrr!”

An Age of Sail adventure, pleasantly recounted.

Pub Date: May 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-15-101302-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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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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