An imagination-stimulating work in which the past seems “to dissolve and reshape itself.”

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THE DEBATABLE LAND

THE LOST WORLD BETWEEN SCOTLAND AND ENGLAND

Robb (The Discovery of Middle Earth: Mapping the Lost World of the Celts, 2013, etc.) uses his vast knowledge of Celtic history, languages, and geography to create a fascinating book of history and adventure.

Regarding the strange story of what is called the “Debatable Land,” the author turns to writings both ancient and modern as he applies archaeological methods to history. This 33,000-acre site is the oldest detectable territorial division in Great Britain. It is devoid of archaeological evidence between the Roman period and the 1500s, which leads Robb to posit that perhaps it was just uninhabitable. Located northeast of the Solway Firth above Cumbria’s Lake District, it was a no-man’s land, a buffer neither Scottish nor English, and open to murder and mayhem by parliamentary decrees of both countries. Until nearly the 1600s, no buildings or cultivation were allowed, and cattle could pasture only between sunrise and sunset. Cattle thieves plied their trade in a reasonably civilized manner governed by March law, a code common and efficient to both sides and unique to the area. It governed the use of hostages to prevent reprisals, established the traditional days of truce, and ensured compliance. On the truce days, livestock owners would receive the value of the stolen animals in money, corn, or merchandise. Throughout the book, readers will be impressed with Robb’s archival digging, especially as he turns to Ptolemy’s 150 C.E. map of Britain—not just the source, but the fact that the author corrected the grid of Ptolemy’s map, which was inaccurate. Readers will have fun following along with Robb’s intriguing historical journey of discovery through this magical realm. In a series of appendices, the author provides detailed maps of different areas of the region as well as a timeline that runs from 43 C.E. to 1793.

An imagination-stimulating work in which the past seems “to dissolve and reshape itself.”

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-28532-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

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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