Provocative dissenting view on a major historical event, but it could have used a lighter touch and a breath of wit.

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THE GLORIOUS REVOLUTION

1688: BRITAIN’S FIGHT FOR LIBERTY

England’s Glorious Revolution was far more sanguinary and disruptive than traditional histories and the popular imagination would have it, argues Vallance (Early Modern History/Univ. of Liverpool).

The author hasn’t entirely shed dissertation-ese in his first book, a sometimes stodgy and generally humorless, though otherwise sensible and sturdy effort. Britain’s King James II, converted to Roman Catholicism, endeavored to liberate Catholics around the British Isles, causing many to wonder if the Isles were slated for more rounds of heresy-hunting, burnings and forced conversions. The birth of James’s son with his Catholic second queen prompted the final crisis, since it would prevent the throne from passing to James’s Protestant daughters from his first marriage. When William of Orange, husband of elder daughter Mary, invaded England from Holland, many Britons cheered. James raised an army of opposition but little other support; even his younger daughter, Anne, slipped out of London and allied with William and Mary. James declined his chance to fight—hence the revolution’s reputation as bloodless. He ran, was captured and practically had to be forced to “escape” by his Dutch guards, who simply wanted James out of the country so William and Mary could assume the throne without messy complications. Anne returned to reign following their deaths; after her, George I established the Hanoverian line and kept Britain safely Protestant, not to mention newly considerate of Parliament. Vallance excels at showing how the emerging press played a pivotal role in the transition, wryly noting the influence of both booze and coffee on the populace’s fiery political fervor. The author also reminds us that the revolution was far from bloodless in Ireland and Scotland, where religious passions ran deep and the ultimate political settlements were “far more divisive.” Among Vallance’s few light moments: a funny word portrait of famously ugly King William.

Provocative dissenting view on a major historical event, but it could have used a lighter touch and a breath of wit.

Pub Date: April 16, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-933648-24-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2008

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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