An engaging overview of a classic New England town and its historic theater.



A history of the iconic Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which is one of New England’s oldest theatrical venues.

Portsmouth-based historian Robinson (Mystery on the Isles of Shoals, 2019, etc.) captures the history of New Hampshire’s only port city by telling the story of its landmark theater, built in 1878. This sumptuously illustrated coffee-table volume also presents an often compelling history of early American entertainment in general, starting in 1630, when Portsmouth was called Strawbery Banke. The book continues through the Civil War era, detailing the entertainers, jugglers, and local notables who played prominent roles in the evolution of the historical Portsmouth theater scene. The book effectively uses a discussion of the first Music Hall show in January 1878 as a springboard to discuss the history of theater entertainment in the town and region and, by extension, in the United States as a whole. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Gen. Tom Thumb, John Philip Sousa, Mark Twain, and many other major entertainment figures of the late 19th century make appearances in Robinson’s narrative. Later, “After four decades as a declining old movie house,” the author writes, “the Music Hall stage exploded with live action once more.” By the late 1980s, the hall began to feature popular musical entertainers, such as Dizzy Gillespie, the Persuasions, and Steppenwolf. The book’s focus eventually narrows to discuss the now-nonprofit Music Hall, which may be of primary interest to Portsmouth locals. The book is replete with color photographs and period illustrations; at one point, however, it confusingly presents a montage of photos of modern performers in the middle of a section on the late 19th century. Despite this anomaly, this book provides lots of intriguing material that will appeal to aficionados of American live entertainment.

An engaging overview of a classic New England town and its historic theater.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-938394-34-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Great Life Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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