An unusual, often delightful piece of cultural history.




Journalist and first-time author Jaffe travels the fabled stretch of road connecting New York and Boston.

The Boston Post Road, writes the author, is best envisioned as “a lasso tossed from Manhattan toward the Bay, its knot landing at New Haven, wrangling southern New England.” With a purpose larger than pinpointing a particular path, he tells a three-pronged tale about transportation, commerce and communication that stretches over four centuries. Jaffe examines the ancient Indian footpaths followed by colonial messengers who wore a trail through the wilderness sufficiently established to support regular mail service by 1673. The muddy, rutted paths had by 1789 become a “loosely pebbled splendor” later trumped by turnpikes and expressways. The “King’s best highway,” once the conduit for quill-penned letters and newspapers that galvanized the American Revolution, by the 1990s featured cell-phone towers above and fiber optic wires beneath. Famous names—Winthrop, Franklin, Adams, Washington, Revere, Lincoln, FDR, P.T. Barnum—figure prominently here, but most interesting are the sketches of lesser-known characters who contributed to the highway’s legend. These include Levi Pease, the stagecoach entrepreneur and “Father of the New England Roads”; Samuel Slater and Francis Lowell, whose carding machines and power looms fueled the Northeastern industrial explosion; Albert Pope, bicycle manufacturer and agitator for better roads and highway reform; Hiram Maxim, who engineered Pope’s bicycles into horseless carriages that briefly turned the area into the world’s automotive center; and Lester Barlow, whose revolutionary idea for expressways transformed the corridor forever. Jaffe provides revealing anecdotes about the postal service’s emergence, the vogue for turnpikes, the region’s short-lived canal fever, the Boston-New York rivalry, the underrated importance of the bicycle craze, the railroad empire’s rise and fall and the political battles pitting people against highways.

An unusual, often delightful piece of cultural history.

Pub Date: June 22, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4165-8614-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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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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