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THE SWAMP FOX

HOW FRANCIS MARION SAVED THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

A thoroughly researched biography, if a tad tendentious.

An admiring biography of Francis Marion (1732-1795), a military hero of the American Revolution.

As Oller (American Queen: The Rise and Fall of Kate Chase Sprague—Civil War "Belle of the North" and Gilded Age Woman of Scandal, 2013, etc.) notes, readers of a certain age will remember Marion, the “Swamp Fox,” as the subject of a Disney TV series that ran from 1959 to 1961, and he also reminds us that the 2000 Mel Gibson film, The Patriot, was based loosely on Marion’s exploits. The author’s strategy is conventional and chronological. He acknowledges the difficulty of separating fact from legend in Marion’s case, but the author is resolute. He teaches us about Marion’s family (he did not marry until after the war) and the determination of the British to employ a Southern strategy as the war progressed. A slaveholder in South Carolina, he became a militia leader and quickly established himself as a slippery foe, one who, the author declares, borrowed from the guerrilla tactics of the Cherokee, whom he’d fought earlier. Oller takes us through each of the two dozen or so of Marion’s engagements, virtually all of which were successful; sometimes the detail is daunting, but the maps help clarify matters. Oller shows us a man who was a stickler for discipline but who also refused to allow his men to plunder and commit other overly punitive acts. We meet, as well, his military supporters and antagonists—Nathanael Greene among the former, Thomas Sumter among the latter. Oller is generous in his praise for Marion—his efforts did thwart the Southern strategy—but he seems a bit uncomfortable discussing the Swamp Fox as a slave owner. Although the author periodically alludes to slavery, he does not discuss it in much detail until the final pages, where he states it’s “safe to assume [Marion] was not a cruel master.”

A thoroughly researched biography, if a tad tendentious.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-306-82457-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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NIGHT

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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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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