From Prince Charles’ boarding school to the rise of Benny Hill: The Britain we know today takes shape in these pages....

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MODERNITY BRITAIN

1957-1962

Covering just five years in more than 900 pages, British historian Kynaston (Family Britain, 1951-1957, 2009, etc.) continues his sprawling study of Britain from the end of World War II to the rise of Margaret Thatcher.

The present volume opens in 1957, when the grimness of postwar belt-tightening had finally given way to something of a boom. The author wisely and subtly brackets that year and the closing year of his volume with music, Tommy Steele (“Britain’s first rock ’n’ roll star”) on one side and the Beatles on the other. Attractive though this book is for anyone interested in the social history of modern Britain, Kynaston is more concerned with the concrete details of daily life—literally. In much of the narrative, the author documents Britain’s efforts both to modernize and to provide adequate housing for a growing population. “[D]uring the 1950s,” he writes, “well over two million new dwellings had been added to the national housing stock and almost 300,000 old houses demolished.” But that wasn’t nearly enough, and tied into the housing shortage were issues of race and class, with one major race riot in Notting Hill linked to the arrival in an all-white public-housing neighborhood of a Pakistani family. Strife is a constant in Kynaston’s pages, but so is aspiration, with an exploding population of university students and of the social services to accommodate them, a modest but growing movement to press for gay and minority civil rights, and a general loosening of the primness of yesteryear, as exemplified by the lifting of the ban on D.H. Lawrence’s 1928 novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover—which didn’t happen until 1960. Kynaston peppers his narrative with examples of British unstiff upper lips, complaining about everything from, yes, the ethnicity of one’s neighbors to the grating voices of the Windsors.

From Prince Charles’ boarding school to the rise of Benny Hill: The Britain we know today takes shape in these pages. Monumental and highly readable.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0747588931

Page Count: 912

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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