A serious history that will appeal to lovers of all things Irish.

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THE FIELDS OF ATHENRY

A JOURNEY THROUGH IRISH HISTORY

A chronicle of Ireland, as seen from the parapet of a run-down tower.

In 1969, when Roy (Islands of Storm, not reviewed) was a longhaired young man touring Ireland on a motorcycle, he bought Moyode Castle for £800. Thirty years and two books on Ireland later, he offers a tale that interweaves his experience renovating the 16th-century tower with a history of the region where it stands. The result is a delightful portrait of a land split between past and present. In Athenry, history is everywhere—from the earthen mounds that are the last traces of Norman strongholds to Stone Age axes found in plowed fields. But the people Roy befriends as he works on his tower scarcely seem to care about the heritage around them: their life is simple and rooted in the present day, so much so that the author often grows frustrated with them. It takes months to finalize his purchase of Moyode, for example, and he finds it hard to hire fast-moving workmen. Roy’s account of the numerous warlords who ruled Athenry proves to be more gripping, since the Irish seemed to have been particularly well-suited to fighting among themselves at the expense of their country. First the Normans (who built Moyode) and then the English exploited the Gaels’ infighting. Eventually, lands such as those around the castle were expropriated by the British Crown and given to Protestants. As in most histories, the personalities of the players shine. Much attention is given to the Earl of Connaught, a typically merciless leader who instructed his son Richard to kill his aunt (Connaught’s sister) by throwing her out a window. Roy fast-forwards through modern Ireland, devoting little attention to the founding of the Republic, and his last chapter discounts the “Emerald Tiger” depiction of his adopted home: He’s sure that the current era, like all the others, will change for the worse.

A serious history that will appeal to lovers of all things Irish.

Pub Date: March 16, 2001

ISBN: 0-8133-3860-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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