An encyclopedic history of Scandinavia, her raiders, and the effect they had on world cultures—not necessarily a tale to...

NORTHMEN

THE VIKING SAGA, 793-1241

Dark Ages expert Haywood (Viking: The Norse Warrior's (Unofficial) Manual, 2013, etc.) sets out to chronicle the history of the Vikings, “an unprecedented phenomenon in European history…for the vast expanse of their horizons.”

The sagas were no doubt based on some facts, but many of the names belonged to the shadowy area between legend and history, and many of the cultures were illiterate. While the Viking Age is generally accepted to have run from the sack of Lindisfarne in 793 to the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, the author asserts that they were actively raiding in Scandinavia and the Baltic more than a century earlier. Haywood’s lucid explanations of the cultures of the Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians are vital to understanding the motivations for their movements. Their shallow draft boats allowed for speed—to quickly raid or escape from defenders and move to another victim. The Vikings were generally loyal to no one and happily accepted Christianity (with no intention of forsaking their pagan ways) and fought with locals against other raiders. For the most part, they were seeking booty and had no desire to settle, though that changed with different sectors. Their influence in Ireland, England, and France was absorbed into local cultures. Only in the Faroe Islands and Iceland, where little civilization existed, did Viking heritage remain. In Scotland’s northern isles, they effectively eliminated the Picts, and their influence there lasted longer than even in Scandinavia. Where the Danes sailed in sight of land to Ireland, England, Europe, and Asia, the Norwegians incorporated the use of the pole star, sea birds, ice floes, clouds, and whale migrations. Haywood authoritatively explores it all in a densely informative narrative.

An encyclopedic history of Scandinavia, her raiders, and the effect they had on world cultures—not necessarily a tale to curl up with next to a fire but certainly a sturdy reference book.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-10614-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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