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QUEEN EMMA AND THE VIKINGS

A HISTORY OF POWER, LOVE AND GREED IN 11TH-CENTURY ENGLAND

Casts some light on a dark and sanguinary age. (8 pp. color illustrations, b&w illustrations throughout, not seen)

A politically savvy woman marries two English kings and gives birth to two others in the early Middle Ages.

Thousand-year-old documents are few and uniformly biased, images of the principals are rare or non-existent and the relevant buildings are long gone or much altered, but journalist O’Brien neither quakes nor vacillates as she peers back into the darkness and relates for us the compelling story of a remarkable woman who became “the wife, mother and aunt of England.” (William the Conqueror was her great-nephew.) The author begins in the spring of 1002 as the teenaged Emma is departing from her home in Normandy to marry England’s King Aethelred II. O’Brien simultaneously introduces us to her narrative technique: she launches each chapter with a fairly detailed present-tense narrative, necessarily speculative, about the events she will deal with in a more subdued and scholarly fashion in subsequent pages. The device works well, for these opening segments are invariably more engaging than the subsequent discussions of documents and other historical evidence. The 11th century was a bloody and a religious epoch, a time when Vikings raided the English coast and interior, when important men had names like Ironside and Blue Tooth and Harefoot, when people cherished the arm bones and heads of saints, when wolf’s milk was recommended to reanimate a dead baby in utero, when most people lived in squalor and ignorance and fear, when a Viking could split with his axe the head of the Archbishop of Canterbury. To her credit, O’Brien keeps the focus as much as possible on Emma as she moves from queen to widow to queen to widow to queen mother. She lived to be about 70, quite elderly for the time, and was able to look back on a varied life of riches, humiliation, suffering, subterfuge and, finally, peace.

Casts some light on a dark and sanguinary age. (8 pp. color illustrations, b&w illustrations throughout, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-58234-596-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2005

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NIGHT

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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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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