An impeccably worked historical novel with a flare for the sensuous and melodramatic.

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EBORACUM

THE VILLAGE

A detailed chronicle of the foundation of the Roman fortress of Eboracum, circa A.D. 71, today known as the city of York.

Given the detailed appendix and author’s warning that any presumably unfamiliar word in the text will be italicized, the book begins gratifyingly right in the thick of early Roman Empire conquest. The graphic and lovingly rendered atmosphere of fire, death and victory lets readers know immediately that this is no mere academic exercise; it’s high melodrama, but with a historian’s dedication to detail. We meet Gaius Trebonius, a Roman engineer whose career has been hindered by a tarnished family name. A sympathetic Roman general has given him a project that will not only establish a fortress from which to launch future conquests, but will help Gaius polish his tarnished name. The conversation of the Romans is blessedly unencumbered by the pseudo-formal stylistics that are so endemic to the historical genre, and when the author can’t help but use an unfamiliar term, there is always the appendix. However, the most human characters are the Britons. With their muddy lives and chieftains that find themselves sleeping on the vomit-laden ground amid a hundred others, the Britons’ humble form of elitism is charming and sets taut the central conflict of the novel: civilization versus civilization (though the Romans might put it differently). Cethen, an Eburi chieftain and loyalist to the increasingly incompetent King Venutius, and his wife Elena live on the proposed grounds of Eboracum. And so without establishing any diametrically opposed villains and heroes, readers enjoy the confrontation between human perspectives. During a battle, Gaius is taken prisoner and, though he finds himself with the opportunity to harm Elena, he does not. Elena, by far the sharpest and most sophisticated character, recognizes this and treats him well as a prisoner. It’s not entirely unpredictable, but the chemistry feels legitimate as these two intelligent characters interact amid the chaos created by the conflict between their respective civilizations. The novel will mostly enamor history buffs, but there is enough action and intrigue to satisfy lovers of thoughtful prose, larger-than-life characters and trilogy addicts (this is book one).

An impeccably worked historical novel with a flare for the sensuous and melodramatic.

Pub Date: July 26, 2007

ISBN: 978-1425119997

Page Count: 456

Publisher: Trafford

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2010

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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