A trenchant piece of biographical writing, giving readers a Frederick’s-eye-view of the mare’s nest of 18th-centruy European...


A commanding and militarily vibrant biography of the peerless Prussian autocrat from one of Britain’s premier generals—and novelists.

Fraser (Knight’s Cross, 1994, etc.) well appreciates that Frederick of Prussia wasn’t called “Great” for nothing: He had intellect and wit, was an adroit diplomat, tolerant, and kept an eye skinned for the interests of the common man (he wanted to be remembered as “King of the Beggars”). He was also perhaps a bit hasty, rash even, although that often served to benefit him as a brave and farsighted commander of his forces. But Fraser ultimately admits that, for all of Frederick’s professed love of justice, there was the “conflict, never resolved, between his belief in the actual advantages of monarchical autocracy (in hands like his own) and his enduring belief—equally sincere—in the rights and dignity of man.” As the author makes plain, the buck stopped with Frederick on all matters (from the new opera house to the decision to invade Austria, again and again and again) and, although he was never one to avoid a confrontation, he was also an exemplar of realpolitik. Fraser turns his attention to all aspects of Frederick’s reign, and there is enough page space for him to dip into everything from court life and Frederick’s writings on political philosophy to his envy of Voltaire. This is a popular account, and if, at times, the writing feels like it is stuffed with feathers (“he introduced the young prince . . . to the possible delights of women”), it must be said that the author is never happier than when getting his teeth into one of Frederick’s frequent military battles—which receive extensive treatment.

A trenchant piece of biographical writing, giving readers a Frederick’s-eye-view of the mare’s nest of 18th-centruy European geopolitics. (16 pp. illustrations)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-88064-261-0

Page Count: 720

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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