Of limited use, and of even more limited appeal.




An unrevealing account of an already well-studied episode in American history: the siege of Fort Sumter and the formal opening of hostilities in the Civil War.

Detzer (An Asian Tragedy, 1992) opens with a description of the Confederate siege of the Union forts protecting Charleston, South Carolina. In the main, his version of the siege adds nothing to the existing literature; readers without a background in Civil War history, however, may benefit from his explanation of the political arguments on both sides that preceded the South Carolina militia’s fateful decision to open fire on the fort in April 1861. The eruption of civil war is inevitably a dramatic business, no matter what the particular circumstances may be, and the events that led up to the attack on Fort Sumter are no exception. But this is not a well-written study, and it goes on far too long as Detzer milks the siege for every possible drop of drama. In doing so, he lays on scene-setting descriptions with a trowel, offering observations that are alternately misplaced or obvious (e.g., “Southerners in general, and South Carolinians in particular, were a prickly bunch, proud of their independence”). The best portions describe the career of Robert Anderson, the commander of Fort Sumter, whose brave leadership of the fort’s defense was followed by reluctance to serve in the war (“his heart was not in it”). He died in France some years after the war ended, having first been invited to return to Fort Sumter to raise anew the flag that he had been forced to strike.

Of limited use, and of even more limited appeal.

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-15-100641-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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