A sturdy but narrowly focused tale of American history.



A family’s history reveals the roots of America’s “capitalist ethos.”

Drawing on abundant archival sources, Stout (American Religious History/Yale Univ.; Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War, 2006, etc.) presents a detailed history of the fortunes and aspirations of a single American family, the Andersons of Kentucky, from 1750 to 1888, arguing that land ownership was central to their lives as participants in “the American experiment in republican capitalism.” The Andersons’ quest for land forms a recurring theme, as do the worry and stress that land ownership entails. “Land was the lifeblood of the young nation,” writes the author, “but land was jeopardized by the markets and was the source of unending anxiety.” The clan’s patriarch was Richard Clough Anderson Sr., who in 1783 was elected to the post of surveyor general, “literally measuring America inch by inch and rod by rod to impose order on the land and make possible prosperity for its ambitious citizens.” Those citizens were white males whose land lust entailed the removal of Native nations by force and whose prosperity depended on slaves. The Andersons were slave owners, and though Stout maintains that their “intimate association with land, property, and anxiety” was “not exceptional for their time,” they represent “a broad swath of movers and shakers” rather than ordinary citizens and therefore limit the reach of Stout’s generalizations. With little documentation for women’s lives, the narrative mainly chronicles the Anderson men’s political affiliations, familial squabbles, participation in the Civil War, and responses to a succession of financial panics. Clough’s namesake, Richard Jr., beset by money troubles, risked his family’s well-being to pay off debts and acquire land by taking a well-paid consulship in Colombia; his decision to move to a country with poor medical treatment led to his wife’s death and, eventually, his own. After Richard died, his brother, a Harvard-educated lawyer, became the new patriarch and a wealthy Ohio landowner.

A sturdy but narrowly focused tale of American history.

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-09898-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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