The Austrians' island mentality and their competitive and ambiguous relationship with Germans interact as motifs throughout this flowing historical narrative. This readable account gives the impression that one is engaging in an extended private conversation with its author. Brook-Shepherd (The Storm Birds: Soviet Postwar Defectors, 1989, etc.) boasts a long and intimate acquaintance with the region and its influential figures that started with his service in the postwar Allied Commission in Vienna and years as a journalist. Always commanding the facts and elegant in his presentation, Brook- Shepherd is informative and at times insightful. His narrative focuses on political, dynastic, and military developments in Austrian history: its origins in the Holy Roman Empire, the Hapsburg dynasty, troubled relations with Hungary, the even more disturbing and still troubling issue of the Anschluss, and the era of neutrality and retirement that has come to an end with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The final sections on Austria's role in Europe as a potential bridge between East and West is timely. Still, the reader is left wishing that the author really had the opportunity to probe further: His walk along the already well-trod paths of political history does not adequately fulfill his aim of enlightening us about Austrian identity. Both in terms of the Austrians' relationship with Germans and with the many nationalities in their empire or national state, Brook-Shepherd should have amplified the other distinguishing aspects of Austrian society: language, dress, food, art, philosophy, and cultural trends. Details of everyday and intellectual life would have better served his goal of examining ``the suppressed development of an Austrian consciousness,'' especially as the country enters into the potentially homogenizing force of the European Union. These reservations notwithstanding, Brook-Shepherd provides a compact and illuminating overview of Austria's odd place in European history.

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-7867-0400-4

Page Count: 512

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


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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