THE FINAL ACT

THE ROADS TO WATERLOO

A broad, colorful, engaging panorama of a crucial moment in the shaping of modern Europe, tracing the fall of Napoleon and the wily maneuvers of the victors to carve up his collapsed empire. Dallas (At the Heart of a Tiger: Clemenceau and His World 18411929, 1993) has extraordinary material to work with, and he makes the most of it. The long, costly struggle of England, Russia, and their allies to vanquish Napoleon seemed, with his exile to the island of Elba in 1814, to be over. In the aftermath of the war, the mutually suspicious victors convened the Congress of Nations in Vienna to establish national boundaries, carve out zones of influence, and firmly reassert the place of monarchs in an increasingly republican world. A remarkable cast of characters gathered to map out the new Europe, among them Tsar Alexander of Russia, by turns a mystic and a determinedly shrewd expansionist; Talleyrand, France's representative, a man bright and adaptable enough to have survived both the Revolution and Napoleon's reign; Castlereagh, a moody, brilliant figure who had almost singlehandedly created the British Foreign Service; and Metternich, Austria's Machiavellian foreign minister. Then, incredibly, Napoleon broke loose, quickly rallied his armies, and set out to reclaim his empire. That quest ended at Waterloo, in the most pivotal battle of the 19th century in Europe. Dallas's portraits of leading figures, while frankly opinionated, are deeply informed. He uses his considerable research admirably, offering vivid, fresh depictions of Paris, London, and Vienna, and of the drawing rooms, counting houses, and battlefields that figured in the vast drama. His argument that the treaty that emerged from Napoleon's downfall largely created modern Europe—and the tensions that would lead to even bloodier wars—is persuasive. A gripping and highly original work of popular history. (50 illustrations, 3 maps, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8050-3184-7

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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...

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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