A compelling account of a woman who, though long forgotten, changed the way the world viewed swimming. Not quite equal in...

The Best American Sports Writing series editor offers a history of the first woman to swim the English Channel.

In the era of Michael Phelps, it’s easy to forget that 100 years ago the sport of swimming was essentially nonexistent. Considered a necessary skill in ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, swimming eventually became a sport of the elite. Everything changed, however, in the early 1900s when a fatal fire broke out on a steamship in New York Harbor, leaving more than 1,000 people dead as they jumped overboard and drowned in shallow waters. Almost immediately, swimming societies began to spring up across the country to quell the palpable public outrage. Among those newly enrolled in lessons was Gertrude Ederle, a young woman who sought solace in the water to counter the progressive deafness brought on by an early bout of measles. Ederle became dominant in the newly emerging sport, equally at ease swimming sprints or long distances. After winning one gold and two bronze medals in a disappointing 1924 Olympic showing, she turned her efforts to crossing the English Channel. Stout (The Dodgers: 120 Years of Dodgers Baseball, 2004, etc.) adeptly traces the history of swimming and Ederle’s significance in it. Whether recounting the origins of modern strokes or the geological formation of the English Channel, the author is comprehensive in his research. His blow-by-blow accounts of Ederle’s two attempts to cross from Dover, England, to Cape Gris-Nez, France, demonstrate his engaging style. Stout is also a strong finisher—the second half of the book, saturated with thrills and melodrama, is far superior to the first.

A compelling account of a woman who, though long forgotten, changed the way the world viewed swimming. Not quite equal in historical scope to Gavin Mortimer’s The Great Swim (2008), but more colorful than Tim Dahlberg’s America’s Girl (2009).

Pub Date: July 28, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-618-85868-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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