A wordy yet interesting book that clearly shows the deep divisions that were the real causes of the Civil War.




Addresses Oakes (Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865, 2012, etc.) delivered for the Walter Lynwood Fleming Lectures at Louisiana State University are the basis for this book about the attempts to eliminate slavery while avoiding war in the United States.

The metaphor of the scorpion stinging itself to death when surrounded by fire was widely used, but that doesn’t bear repeating it quite so frequently. A good deal of this book is unnecessarily repetitious but still worth the read. Abolitionists felt that surrounding the slave states with a cordon of free states would destroy slavery. Since the Constitution forbade federal interference in state policies such as slavery, no one ever stated that the Civil War was fought over slavery; it was fought to prevent its expansion into the free territories. The author ably explores the history of the basic difference between the abolitionists and pro-slavers: the view that slaves are mere items of property. All sides accepted the fact of military emancipation under which freedom was promised to slaves who would change loyalties. During the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Seminole Wars and the Civil War, it was accepted that the laws of war entitled belligerents to free slaves. The question was: What was allowed by the treaty that ended each war? The Treaty of Paris of 1783 contained an article requiring the English not to carry away “Negroes or other property.” The debate revolved around the fact that the “property to be returned” after the conflict included slaves who had been granted freedom. To return slaves “still on shore” for re-enslavement was considered unacceptable, but demands for compensation were still debated years afterward.

A wordy yet interesting book that clearly shows the deep divisions that were the real causes of the Civil War.

Pub Date: May 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-393-23993-5

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet