Corrigan matches fascinating battle descriptions with accounts of how wars were financed and fought, as well as the...




Bloodshed makes for entertaining history, and military historian Corrigan (The Second World War: A Military History, 2009, etc.) takes full advantage.

Charles IV of France died in 1328, leaving no children but a sister, Isabella. No law forbade her succession, but French leaders mostly opposed her, especially since she was married to the king of England, Edward II. Britons were not inclined to fight for a foreign queen but changed their minds when Edward and Isabella’s pugnacious son, Edward III (1312-1377), declared himself France’s rightful ruler in 1337. That year launched the Hundred Years’ War, brilliantly recounted here by Corrigan. A series of painful experiences in Scotland and Ireland taught that charges by armored knights, the usual medieval tactic for battle, didn’t work unless the enemy did the same, so England’s increasingly professional (i.e., paid) soldiers fought on foot, men at arms in the center flanked by archers wielding the famous longbow, the arrows of which could penetrate armor. The result was smashing victories at Crécy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415), but superior power has its limits—a lesson that is still applicable today. The tide turned after the battle at Agincourt. Joan of Arc deserves some credit, but France’s weak feudal monarchy finally transformed into a centralized state with a professional army that adopted new technology, especially the use of the cannon. When fighting ended in 1453, only the city of Calais remained in British hands. Good things followed—e.g., the Renaissance, a united France—but these hardly required vicious, exhausting campaigns over a dismal century during which the bubonic plague also figured prominently.

Corrigan matches fascinating battle descriptions with accounts of how wars were financed and fought, as well as the Byzantine politics and mostly unpleasant personalities that conducted them.

Pub Date: July 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60598-579-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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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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