Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Larson (History/Pepperdine Univ.; A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America’s First Presidential Campaign, 2007, etc.) sheds new light on the famous three-way race to the South Pole.

Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen was the first to reach the pole, in 1912—returning in triumph to tell the tale—while British standard-bearer Robert Scott lagged behind by two weeks and perished on the ice. However, writes the author, this was not a defeat for Britain. While the Norwegian's primary aim was to “bag poles,” the primary mission of the two British adventurers, Scott and Ernest Shackleton, was to carry out scientific research. This they did admirably, laying the groundwork for modern research in such diverse fields as marine biology, meteorology and glaciology. The story is not only about science, writes Larson, but “also about power and politics, culture and commerce; hubris and heroism at the end of the Earth.” At the close of a London lecture sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society where Amundsen was the featured speaker, a cheer was raised for his dogs, “without whom,” in the words of Lord Curzon, “Captain Amundsen would never have got to the Pole.” In fact, Larson writes, the British ethos at the time centered on its imperial grandeur. The shock of defeat in the Boer war was counterbalanced by tales of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration and the three major expeditions by Scott and Shakleton, during which the explorers suffered terrible privation wintering on the ice with seal meat as their only food. A satisfying tale of adventure and exploration.


Pub Date: May 31, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-300-15408-5

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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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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