A noble effort from Ganly, whose next installment, set in the 20th century, might benefit from a tighter narrative focus and...



Ganly’s (Data Sources for Business and Market Analysis: 4th Ed., 1994) fiction debut traces the myriad highs and lows of an Irish family throughout the last half of the 19th century.

Opening with a journey to America, Ganly’s sprawling saga covers the lives of the Clinton family from 1850 to 1899. In lieu of a single, main story, however, the novel overflows with subplots that touch on such themes as marriage, faithfulness, performing arts, politics and even serial murder. The Clinton clan includes Lawrence, a talented portraitist coming to terms with his homosexuality; Eva, a lauded stage actress determined to fight for Irish rights; Claire, a nun who’s wrestling with the restrictions of her religious vows; and many more. In addition to the Clinton family’s core members and their inner circle, cameos abound from such historical figures as William “Boss” Tweed, Oscar Wilde and Sigmund Freud (a man with “fascinating” eyes who looks “more like a musician than a physician”). Although the action bounces primarily between Ireland, London and New York, there are also brief sojourns to Russia, Australia and Africa that shake things up. As the former assistant director of the New York Public Library, Ganly exhibits admirable ambition and an encyclopedic knowledge of the time period. At more than 600 pages, however, the novel seems overstuffed and distracted. The prose, for example, often seems overly preoccupied with explaining things, such as characters’ motivations, even if those explanations aren’t particularly intriguing: “Sean began to experience the happiness lost to him, and the chance to act and be part of Cora’s life filled him with joy.” The Clintons also all share the same stilted way of speaking, which robs some scenes of the emotional impact they ought to have. When two characters break up, for instance, their conversation is stiff and unrealistic: “I can see no future in our relationship. The love I have for you is a treasure that will last me a lifetime….We part as friends with good memories.”

A noble effort from Ganly, whose next installment, set in the 20th century, might benefit from a tighter narrative focus and deeper characterization.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-1482559484

Page Count: 624

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2015

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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