An assumption-rattling landmark in modern Irish historical writing.


If Ireland is now the Celtic Tiger, a marvel of the modern world economy, it’s no thanks to many of the nation’s institutions over the past century.

“Wherever we go we celebrate the land that makes us refugees,” runs an Irish pop song, but Dublin-born historian Ferriter is disinclined to laud his homeland unduly. Indeed, he opens his massive survey by announcing uncomfortable themes, many touching on areas of life that have impeded progress and have contributed to a long legacy of misery, such as the apparent unwillingness of government and the wealthy to do anything about poverty. Though not iconoclastic, Ferriter, like his contemporary Roy Foster, demolishes or demotes cherished legends; the supposedly internecine struggle that led to independence, for example, was surely dislocating and terrible, but much less so than previous histories have it. Devotion to mythologized history (and to exaggeration) is by no means exclusive to the Irish, but it plays so strongly that certain realities go ignored; that England was a longstanding enemy did not keep some 70,000 citizens of the officially neutral Irish Republic from joining the Allied forces during WWII, though “it was not until 1995 that an Irish government formally sponsored a memorial to those who had participated,” and of course Irish Catholics have witnessed scandals involving rogue priests that rival those across the water, though that has not stopped young Irish people from being “the most spiritual in Europe,” with 48 percent professing a belief in God, as compared to only 8 percent of their French peers. Even in the wealthy high-tech Ireland of today, Ferriter notes, poverty remains widespread and largely unaddressed, as are other social problems—though, he allows, many improvements have taken hold in the last few years.

An assumption-rattling landmark in modern Irish historical writing.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-58567-681-0

Page Count: 884

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2005

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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