A massive, often turgid history that shows how talks without resolution and the shadow of the gunman have become fixtures in Northern Ireland during the past 25 years. Though familiar with images of intermittent, brutal, often senseless murders such as that of Lord Mountbatten, Americans are only dimly aware of the background of Ireland's deadly patriot game. The stirrings of the Catholic civil-rights movement in six- county Ulster in the mid-60's, explains Bell (History/Columbia University), quickly sparked repression by the province's Protestant unionist majority and led to the introduction of British troops and the revival of the all-but-dead IRA through a new, more militant Provisional wing. Since then, the four major diplomatic players have become ensnared in ancient tribal grievances and/or illusions: Ulster's Catholics, still smarting over persistent discrimination, refuse to yield their dreams of unity with the Republic of Ireland; the province's Protestants, whining that Great Britain is ready to sell them out, adamantly refuse to share power with the Catholic minority; Dublin, powerless to gain the united Ireland it has always desired, pushes empty, symbolic pacts like the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement; and London, when not ignoring Ulster, regards the Irish of both faiths with condescension. Bell excels in describing key figures like fire-eating loyalist Rev. Ian Paisley and Whitehall's succession of genial, ignorant Northern Ireland secretaries, and he details well the inner workings of the IRA—not surprising, given his track record as a student of both terrorism and the IRA (Assassin!, 1979, etc.). But Bell mistakes windiness for eloquence, and simplistically attributes the conflict's lack of a solution to the psychological pleasure derived by history-haunted fanatics. Often powerful in illuminating the dynamics behind the diplomatic stalemate—but sluggish and sometimes muddled (e.g., in the treatment of the John Stalker controversy). (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: March 17, 1993

ISBN: 0-312-08827-2

Page Count: 944

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1993

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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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