Everyone here spins good yarns, rendered in lovely prose, but the book’s hefty size pads a pretty skimpy adventure.




Long-winded, thoughtfully meandering tale of the repercussions of a WWI spy ring on a Palestine village.

Israeli journalist Halkin (Across the Sabbath River, 2002) unearthed this story in his backyard more than 30 years ago, when he and his wife bought land and built a house in the former farming village of Zichron Ya’akov. In the late 19th century, Zichron—supported and designed by Baron James de Rothschild during the first wave of Jewish immigration to Ottoman-ruled Palestine—was also home to the Nili ring, a shadowy pro-British group operating against the oppressive Turks. Very gradually, Halkin embarks on the details of the affair he uncovers in conversations with lively, irrepressible local residents. Before Britain’s conquest of Palestine in 1917, the Jewish settlers, afraid for their survival upon hearing of the 1915 Armenian massacre, decided to help keep the British informed of Turkish maneuvers. Zionists Aaron Aaronsohn and Avshalom Feinberg; Aaron’s sisters, Sarah and Rivka; and a “picaresque rover,” Yosef Lishansky, organized a ring that traded intelligence for British gold, which they dispensed to the Jews of Palestine to keep them from starving—or talking. A dragnet was thrown, however, and the spies were arrested and tortured, most notably Sarah, who before shooting herself managed to write an accusatory farewell letter that seemed to name her informers and urge revenge. In fact, Perl Appelbaum, one of four women who probably informed on the ring in order to save the community from Turkish retribution, died under suspicious circumstances that perhaps involved poison, or at least that’s what Halkin concludes after tortuous wanderings through stories within stories by survivors who like to embellish.

Everyone here spins good yarns, rendered in lovely prose, but the book’s hefty size pads a pretty skimpy adventure.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-58648-271-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2005

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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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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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