Medieval history buffs of an obsessive trainspotting and detectorist bent will be pleased—general readers, less so.

THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS

THE FALL OF THE ANGLO-SAXONS AND THE RISE OF THE NORMANS

A chronicle of the significant 1066 battle.

At the time of the Norman conquest, England, writes Bradbury, was “one of the most developed political units in western Europe,” its Anglo-Saxon rulers having solidified control over most of the country and expanded into Scotland and Wales. Normandy—not the present province, but the region of northwestern France controlled by people of Scandinavian descent—was emerging as a continental power, as well, and ranging far afield in search of lootworthy venues. When William II, the Duke of Normandy, came to power, he concentrated Norman power further, facing down the threat of local peasant rebellions and war with neighboring Anjou. William was decidedly unpleasant: When snickered at for being illegitimate, he “ordered the hands and feet of thirty-two mockers to be cut off.” Regardless of his temperament, owing to the confusing lineages of medieval Europe, William had about as much right to be king of England, across the Channel, as anyone. When Harold took the throne after more or less promising that he wouldn’t, William committed himself to storming the island and making England a Viking-tinged French colony. The author’s account is mostly dutiful and only occasionally illuminating. More of the book, though, is given over to a nearly real-time, blow-by-blow description of the Battle of Hastings and its hacked-off limbs and arrow-pierced eyes. Usefully, Bradbury points out that the result of the fight was far from a foregone conclusion, as many popular accounts have it, with the outcome hanging in the balance over the course of a long, bloody day. Yet, specialists aside, readers will find themselves bogged down by the author’s wonky attention to such things as the composition of a Norman shield (“some have a few rivets—four, six, nine, even eleven—probably to hold together the planks of wood”) and the exact composition of the opposing forces.

Medieval history buffs of an obsessive trainspotting and detectorist bent will be pleased—general readers, less so.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64313-632-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 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...

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

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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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