A combination of a solid biography of an extraordinary monarch and a concise history of turbulent 15th-century Spain.




Engaging new appraisal of Europe’s first female monarch and her long, consequential reign.

A century before Elizabeth I, there was Isabella of Castile (1451-1504), whose 35-year reign alongside her less-capable husband, Ferdinand of Aragon, became the model of a strong, enduring, ruthless (rather than enlightened) dynasty. Economist Madrid correspondent Tremlett (Catherine of Aragon: The Spanish Queen of Henry VIII, 2010, etc.) puts into lively relief the remarkable talents and drive of this singular female sovereign, who subjugated her husband’s role by law and believed fervently that her “purification” of the Arab lands of Andalusia and Granada was dictated by God. In short, she ruled as rigorously as a man and was beloved for it. She was already proving herself a shrewd operator when, at age 18, she finagled her own choice of a husband in the dashing son of a quarrelsome neighboring dynasty, Aragon. Ascending to the throne of Castile after the relatively short reigns of her weak brother and half brother, she and Ferdinand were able to bring Castile and Aragon together under one crown, which was unprecedented and spurred new ambition in uniting the whole Iberian peninsula—the Reconquista. Isabella delighted in war preparations: she harnessed the power of the Spanish nobility, the Grandees, defeated her usurper, employed a “new sort of army” that used artillery and infantry rather than knights and their mounted followers, and terrified the enemy by her mere presence, as she did in the siege of Baza in 1489. Certain that God was on her side, she and Ferdinand instigated the state inquisition as a harsh system of justice to convert Jews and Moors to Christianity before banishing them both from the kingdom altogether. Tremlett gives a broad sense of the ramifications of her will, especially in sanctioning the expedition of Christopher Columbus and thus spreading Christianity and Spanish influence throughout the Western hemisphere.

A combination of a solid biography of an extraordinary monarch and a concise history of turbulent 15th-century Spain.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63286-520-5

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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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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