A FIRST RATE TRAGEDY

ROBERT FALCON SCOTT AND THE RACE TO THE SOUTH POLE

An imaginative, sympathetic biography of the famous and ill-fated Antarctic explorer. English biographer Preston, author of a life of Bonnie Prince Charlie (The Road to Culloden Moor, not reviewed), attended a girls— high school in Hampstead in the entrance hall of which were emblazoned the words of Robert Falcon Scott: —Had we lived I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman.— Scott did not live, of course: he and four companions who had set off to find the South Pole in 1912 died horribly of starvation and cold, and in any event they were beaten to the pole by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. Ironies attended their deaths, not the least of them the fact that Scott and his team perished just a few miles from a depot of food and supplies; all the same, Preston rightly notes, those deaths were not in vain, at least not on the national-pride front. England had nearly lost the Boer War, and the Titanic had recently sunk; the nation needed a hero and found one in a young naval officer who feared for the character of his own soul, thanks to a domineering father who accused him of indolence and cowardice, and who had a terror of being thought —below par.— That Scott acquitted himself admirably on the ice and was considered a model leader by his men did not do much to give the explorer greater self-esteem, but, writes Preston, he confined expressing his terrors to his much-quoted diary, in which he recorded his last moments in the hope that he would thereby —make a tale for our generation which I hope may not be lost in the telling.— Preston gracefully retells that stirring, unmistakably heroic, and sadly doomed adventure for a new generation.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-395-93349-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

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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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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