A reader-friendly glance at a turning point in history.

1215

THE YEAR OF MAGNA CARTA

“No vill or man shall be forced to build bridges at river banks, except those who ought to do so by custom and law.”

The years preceding 1215 in England were bad ones, apparently, for the folks who didn’t wish to be press-ganged into building bridges; they weren’t much better for those who liked a little variety in their diet, for in those days “the poor virtually fasted every day,” even if their simple repasts spared them from the tooth decay that the rich, with their artificial sweeteners, suffered. British historian/writers Danziger (co-author, The Year 1000, 1999, etc.) and Gillingham (History/London School of Economics) take readers on an informal, sometimes even breezy tour of the times, explaining oddments and customs: Chairs being rare, for instance, visitors to a house were usually seated on daybeds; only an important guest was given the seat of honor, whence the modern term “chairman” or “chair.” Danziger and Gillingham linger appreciatively on some of the better aspects of the day, when cathedrals and seats of learning were established and England’s holdings were beginning to expand across the waters to France and Ireland. But they don’t shy from the less idyllic features of life in Merrie Olde, when slavery may have been abolished but serfdom endured (“Economic and social circumstance inevitably meant that some people were less free than others”). Their narrative, which moves along nicely, closes with the rebellion of the English knights against King John, who, most commentators agree, needed to be rebelled against; the result was the Magna Carta, a translation of the complete text of which closes this study (and makes it of extra use for readers seeking good value for their shilling). Danziger and Gillingham suggest that the most important clauses of the Magna Carta concern the requirements for fair trials and judgment by peers—but protection against having to build bridges unwillingly must have been nice, too.

A reader-friendly glance at a turning point in history.

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-5773-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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...

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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ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN

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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