A nutritious but heavy loaf that lacks the leavening of felicity.



In sturdy but ordinary prose, a freelance historian tells the complicated story of the war that took the life of Lord Byron and freed Greece from Ottoman rule.

Brewer (a one-time classics scholar with a half-century’s interest in Greece) debuts with a thorough, if occasionally sluggish, account of a struggle that ultimately involved the great powers of Europe and consumed virtually all of the 1820s. After the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, Brewer argues, “Greece became a small, poor and backward part of this great empire. . . . ” It was principally the Christian church that enabled the Greeks to keep their dwindling sense of national identity. By the early 19th century, time was ripe for talk of liberation to become action. In September 1814, three Greeks founded a secret society to foment the uprising they hoped would result in liberation. Brewer confidently guides us through the seven complex years before hostilities erupted in March 1821. At first the Greeks were out-gunned, out-shipped, and out-manned, but a number of early victories greatly improved morale—and encouraged foreign investors and sundry philhellenes to adopt the Greek cause. (One young idealist who showed up to fight was a Spanish girl dressed as a man.) Brewer does not withhold the full measure of gore: Following their victory at Chios, for example, the Turks sent a grisly shipment of Greek heads and ears to Constantinople. Brewer devotes several interesting chapters to the intertwined stories of Lord Byron and his friend Edward John Trelawny (the latter snatched Shelley’s heart from the funeral pyre in 1822 and later barely survived an assassination attempt in a Greek stronghold). And Brewer, ever in command of his facts, explains the effects of sizable British loans, the attempt to forge a constitution and find a king; he relates, as well, the world’s last major naval battle involving ships powered only by the wind.

A nutritious but heavy loaf that lacks the leavening of felicity.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2001

ISBN: 1-58567-172-X

Page Count: 393

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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