An erudite work that presents a fresh facet to Elizabeth’s reign.




An intriguing look at England’s contact with the Ottoman Empire and its enormous influence on Elizabethan commerce and culture, especially the theater.

Brotton (Renaissance Studies/Queen Mary Univ. of London; A History of the World in 12 Maps, 2013, etc.) explores the fascination of Britain with the Islamic world before Queen Elizabeth first wrote to the young sultan, Murad, in 1579, in response to his granting of commercial privileges to the English merchant William Harborne. During the reign of her father, the English world was crazy about commodities from the Islamic world, such as sugar and indigo as well as rich silks and textiles. Yet over the next 17 years of Elizabeth’s reign, the commercial and cultural contact intensified, especially as the Protestant queen, excommunicated by the pope in 1570, used the exchange to wily purpose in countering the Catholic opposition to her reign, especially from Spain, against which the Moroccan sultan Ahmad al-Mansur proposed a military alliance in 1600. The Catholic world excoriated Elizabeth for her alliance with the Turkish “heathens” (as did plenty of internal critics), yet she was clever in the keeping of peace and prosperity considering Ottoman Turkey was a world military power and England a fairly insignificant player on the stage. Brotton looks into the early English travelers to that fabled land of the Mahometans or Moors (the term Muslim was not yet being used)—e.g., the young merchant Anthony Jenkinson, who became head of the new Muscovy Company and traveled to meet and charm the Moorish leaders; Harborne, the “apt man in Constantinople” who navigated the Anglo-Ottoman Capitulations of 1580; and the vainglorious Sir Anthony Sherley, who gained a mention in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. In several chapters Brotton explores the Elizabethan theater’s fairly stereotyped representations of the Moors, culminating in Shakespeare’s fully fleshed, sympathetic Othello.

An erudite work that presents a fresh facet to Elizabeth’s reign.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-525-42882-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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?