Feminism, republicanism, nationalism: at least one -ism too many.




A sweeping saga à la Tara unmasked: Ireland’s King family (the Lords Kingsborough) through feudalism’s death struggle with the rise of republican thought in the late 18th century.

Historian Todd also tracks England’s pioneer feminist (Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary Life, 2000) into a year’s service as the Kingsboroughs’ governess and tutor to their two young daughters, both faced with the prospect of a privileged life as members of an Anglo-Irish aristocracy, also known as the Ascendancy, that effectively held the unpropertied Irish majority firmly in sway through the English Crown’s puppet Parliament in Dublin. By the author’s estimation, a year of Wollstonecraft was enough to inoculate Margaret (the elder) and Mary King with revelations on the sorry state of womanhood that led each in her own way to reject the typical arranged marriage. “It was remarkable,” the author comments, “that any aristocrats, raised by servants to consider their own desires paramount . . . ever managed to live together [as man and wife].” While Mary winds up in a sordid affair with a married man who may be her mother’s relative, Margaret sublimates her loveless union as Lady Mount Cashell into clandestine support of the United Irishmen, an avowed nonsectarian (initially) group dedicated to severing political ties to England and permitting Catholic representation in Parliament. Things do not go well for either daughter: Mary attempts suicide, a family disgrace; Margaret remains an anonymous patriot as the opposition is forced underground by Dublin edicts and the situation devolves into the failed, bloody 1798 Rebellion culminating in the 1801 Act of Union, and in which the King family is associated with atrocities (in the name of Church and Crown) that, along with even worse reprisals, initiate two centuries of sectarian violence—and counting.

Feminism, republicanism, nationalism: at least one -ism too many.

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-345-44764-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2004

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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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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

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