A deeply researched, terrifically entertaining exploration of the London Zoo “through the eyes of some of the people who...




A whimsical work revisiting the English gentlemen of the early- to mid-19th century who envisioned the first Zoological Society of London.

London-based TV producer and author Charman (The Great War: A Nation’s Story, 2014, etc.) delves into an eclectic cast of characters who created London’s first ZSL in 1826. Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, returning home from a grueling stint in Singapore with the East India Company, resolved to create for London its own Jardin des Plantes, like the one he and his wife had admired in Paris. It would be, he decided, “a place of science, of investigation, of knowledge.” A member of the Royal Society, Raffles galvanized the new ZSL and obtained the land for such a venture in The Regent’s Park, designed by John Nash and located in the north of London. Upon Raffles’ death in 1826, the young architect Decimus Burton took over the challenging project, which included the designing of buildings over five acres where “humans could comfortably, elegantly, enjoyably observe creatures.” Indeed, writes Charman, Burton “was building for mankind, rather than for beasts,” and it was a huge hit, open to the public for one shilling per head in 1828. It soon expanded through a tunnel taking visitors elegantly from one side of the road to the other (more illustrations or a map would have been welcome). In her charming, engaging narrative, the author deftly assumes the points of view of her characters, in the spirit of a Victorian novelist. These included the first medical attendant, Charles Spooner, who was eventually dismissed because of the high mortality rate of the exotic animals (the wet, cold English winters were a detriment to many of them), and Charles Darwin, a corresponding member of the ZSL when he returned from his Beagle exploration in 1836, keen to observe the animals himself.

A deeply researched, terrifically entertaining exploration of the London Zoo “through the eyes of some of the people who made it happen.”

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68177-356-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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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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