The authors’ easy, readable style makes this a solid biography of Charles II, full of sturdy history and enough salacious...

THE KING'S BED

AMBITION AND INTIMACY IN THE COURT OF CHARLES II

Jordan and Walsh (White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain's White Slaves in America, 2007, etc.) look deeper into England’s “Merry Monarch” and his character—or lack thereof.

The English civil war and his father’s execution, in 1649, forced Charles II, his mother, and his siblings to flee England, and his years of exile at the amoral French court shaped him profoundly. Following his restoration, his only aims were revenge and pleasure. To build their narrative, the authors make excellent use of a great wealth of resources. Contemporary correspondence, particularly between Charles and his younger sister, gives the most honest picture of the man. In addition, diarists Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn (who wrote about Charles II, “an excellent prince doubtless had he been less addicted to women”) bring out everyday life at court. Charles was a genial, affable man, but he was also selfish, trivial, and hateful of anything that got in the way of his pleasure. He had little interest in statecraft, calling Parliament only to wring money to give to his mistresses, and he generally ignored his capable men of state. He showered his women with titles, properties, and even income that should have gone to the Exchequer. He had a few chief mistresses among his innumerable flings. The first, Barbara Palmer, bore him multiple children and ruled him with countless demands and frequent tirades. His truest “friend” was Nell Gwyn, the actress who made few demands and amused the king greatly. There was also Louise de Kérouaille, a beauty sent by Louis XIV as a spy to promote France’s aim to conquer the Netherlands. Louis’ enormous bribes effectively put Charles in his pocket, and while Charles swore none influenced his decisions, it seems he had better things to do anyway.

The authors’ easy, readable style makes this a solid biography of Charles II, full of sturdy history and enough salacious information to keep it interesting.

Pub Date: March 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-60598-969-3

Page Count: 374

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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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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