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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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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