Yet another excellent work of early American history from one of its best practitioners.



A masterly history of the lesser-known second half of the Revolutionary War.

Ferling reminds readers that American patriots, ecstatic after the 1777 victory at Saratoga, were not expecting the fighting to continue for nearly twice as long as before. In the scene-setting preface, the author gives low marks to both commanders, dubbing Washington a figure of great political acumen but risk-averse. Though Gen. William Howe mostly got the better of Washington, he was often lethargic and wrong-headed. More than most historians, Ferling gives credit to Howe’s second-in-command, Henry Clinton, who took over in 1778. With the declaration of war by France, Clinton sent nearly half his troops to the West Indies and several thousand more to Canada and Florida. Historians—if not most Americans—understand that Britain’s priority after that declaration was defeating its major rival, leaving Clinton shorthanded. By year’s end, Saratoga was old news, and massive aid from France was nowhere in sight. Ferling paints a vivid yet bleak picture: War weariness was widespread, Colonial currency nearly worthless, enlistments falling, and Washington increasingly desperate for men and supplies. Eventually, French loans helped to sustain the “enfeebled United States,” and Washington fought no major battles for the three years before Yorktown, a fact that disturbed his French allies no less than American critics. Frustrated by Washington, Clinton turned his attention to the south, capturing Charleston in May 1780. “Some believed that Clinton’s victory had saved Lord North’s ministry, enabling Britain to remain at war,” writes Ferling. Readers may recall that Gen. Charles Cornwallis continued north through Virginia to disaster at Yorktown. The author astutely points out that Clinton disapproved of Cornwallis’ actions, and Washington opposed French commander Rochambeau’s plan to march their armies down to Virginia but gave in. A traditionalist, Ferling concludes that, but for its blunders, Britain would have defeated the rebels, who made their own blunders—but not enough to lose. Impeccably researched, as usual, the book is a must-read for any student of Revolutionary history.

Yet another excellent work of early American history from one of its best practitioners.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63557-276-6

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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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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A well-documented and enlightened portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt for our times.

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A comprehensive exploration of one of the most influential women of the last century.

The accomplishments of Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) were widespread and substantial, and her trailblazing actions in support of social justice and global peace resonate powerfully in our current moment. Her remarkable life has been extensively documented in a host of acclaimed biographies, including Blanche Wiesen Cook’s excellent three-volume life. Eleanor was also a highly prolific writer in her own right; through memoirs, essays, and letters, she continuously documented experiences and advancing ideas. In the most expansive one-volume portrait to date, Michaelis offers a fresh perspective on some well-worn territory—e.g., Eleanor’s unconventional marriage to Franklin and her progressively charged relationships with men and women, including her intimacy with newspaper reporter Lorena Hickok. The author paints a compelling portrait of Eleanor’s life as an evolving journey of transformation, lingering on the significant episodes to shed nuance on her circumstances and the players involved. Eleanor’s privileged yet dysfunctional childhood was marked by the erratic behavior and early deaths of her flighty, alcoholic father and socially absorbed mother, and she was left to shuttle among equally neglectful relatives. During her young adulthood, her instinctual need to be useful and do good work attracted the attention of notable mentors, each serving to boost her confidence and fine-tune her political and social convictions, shaping her expanding consciousness. As in his acclaimed biography of Charles Schulz, Michaelis displays his nimble storytelling skills, smoothly tracking Eleanor’s ascension from wife and mother to her powerfully influential and controversial role as first lady and continued leadership and activist efforts beyond. Throughout, the author lucidly illuminates the essence of her thinking and objectives. “As Eleanor’s activism evolved,” writes Michaelis, “she did not see herself reaching to solve social problems so much as engaging with individuals to unravel discontinuities between the old order and modernity.”

A well-documented and enlightened portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt for our times.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9201-6

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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