A sublimely entertaining history. (14 b&w illustrations, not seen)



THE STUARTS, 1560-1807

A former Scottish Journalist of the Year conflates the history of his nation’s unhappy dynasty of “incompetent, untrustworthy, spectacularly unfortunate” monarchs and royal pretenders—from Mary Queen of Scots to Bonnie Prince Charlie.

“The Stuarts began with a queen and her second husband. She grew tired of him and, probably, was part of a successful plot to blow him up. . . . Their glamour endures.” With a journalist’s eye for telling detail, witty characterizations, and breezy simplification, Glasgow Herald columnist MacLeod (Highlanders, not reviewed) wrings as much gossip, sex, violence, ineptitude, and wretched excess (with a few moments of glory) as are to be found in any three centuries of British (or, more accurately, Scottish) history. He traces the Stuarts back to a Breton courtier named Flaald, whose great grandson emigrated to England and had the rare good fortune of backing Henry I in his claim to the throne. Appointed High Steward to the king, the ambitious Flaald changed his name to Stewart and married into the royal Bruce line. Eventually, his descendant Robert Stewart (who “lacked either steel, self-discipline or any evident ability”) inherited the throne in the 14th century. Subsequent Stewarts tended to be manic-depressive ne’er-do-wells given to making bad deals with England and siring too many illegitimate offspring. The Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, the (legitimate) daughter of James V and Mary of Guise, became a threat to the authority of Elizabeth I and the Protestant cause and was promptly beheaded. Her son, the oafish James VI (James I of England) was almost blown up in the Gunpowder Plot. MacLeod has little admiration for Charles I, beheaded during the English Civil War, or the dissolute Charles II. James II “was a dull fellow, humorless, hard to like.” The line ended officially with the perpetually pregnant Queen Anne (“a monstrous figure”), whose numerous offspring died before she did—although a few pretenders (among them Bonnie Prince Charlie) lingered about to make as much mischief as they could.

A sublimely entertaining history. (14 b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-27206-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2001

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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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