Not a casual read, but an ideal tool for any serious student of history, art, architecture, European studies, or religion.

AMSTERDAM

A BRIEF LIFE OF THE CITY

An affectionate, rollicking, and occasionally solemn ode to an 800-year-old city.

Dutch journalist Mak takes us on a guided tour of Amsterdam, from its humble beginnings as a settlement around a dam on the Amstel River in the late 12th century to the present. He celebrates the city’s heritage as a haven for independent-minded residents, from 16th-century Anabaptists to the Provos of the 1960s. The author excels when he lets real Asterdammers tell the story of their city. Judging from their surviving account books, for example, 15th-century merchant Symon Reyerszoon and his nephew maintained a thriving trade in ash, potassium, thread, hemp, wood, pitch, tar, rye, wheat, talcum, herring, cloth, wine, exotic fruit, and salt. The diary of a 16th-century Augustinian monk reveals the increasing isolation and terror felt by Catholics living in Amsterdam during the Protestant rise to power. The author convincingly argues that the city embodied the gospel of globalism—peace through prosperity—more than 400 years before the term was popularized. “The new Amsterdam that had emerged after the peaceful revolution of 1578 was dominated by a formula for success, which, until then, had been unknown: the pursuit of wealth in combination with a new conception of liberty. Money and freedom pushed aside . . . the old medieval combination of ‘honour’ and ‘heroism.’” This doesn’t prevent the author from criticizing the city and its inhabitants, however, and Mak offers a thoughtful and stirring account of Amsterdam during WWII—concluding that many Amsterdammers not only failed to help their Jewish neighbors, but willingly participated in the Final Solution. “The Germans never posted more than 60 officers in Amsterdam, even at the height of the persecution of the Jews. The rest was done by the Dutch. Of the total number of men deployed in the big raids, about half were ordinary Dutch policemen.”

Not a casual read, but an ideal tool for any serious student of history, art, architecture, European studies, or religion.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-674-00331-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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