An eminently well-informed narrative.



A geographer’s exuberant travel narrative about the nations and people of the Caribbean.

Jelly-Schapiro (co-editor: Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas, 2016) begins with the premise that the Caribbean, a place often overlooked by both the academic and cultural mainstream, “has been anything but ‘marginal’ to the making of our modern world.” He examines this idea by offering an ambitious depiction of almost all the islands in that region in a narrative that merges historical, political, and geographical accounts of the Caribbean with the author’s abundant experiences as a traveler with an abiding fondness for the islands in all their eccentric, sometimes-bizarre complexity. He divides the book into two sections: one that discusses the islands of the Greater Antilles (Jamaica, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Hispaniola) and another that considers many of the Lesser Antilles (Barbados, Grenada, St. Lucia, Antigua, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Trinidad). In the first section, Jelly-Schapiro brings his passion for Caribbean music to the fore while delineating the people and places he encounters with precision, grace, and eloquence. He discusses how the music of people like Jamaican reggae master Bob Marley, Puerto Rican salsa singer Héctor Lavoe, and Cuban bandleader and I Love Lucy star Desi Arnaz helped put the islands on the map of world culture. In the second section, Jelly-Schapiro focuses more on writers and thinkers—e.g., Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Jean Rhys, Jamaica Kincaid, and C.L.R. James—who made the much smaller islands of the Lesser Antilles important to Western intellectual consciousness. In particular, the author examines their relationships to the places that shaped—and in some cases, came to haunt—them. While descriptive detail is one of the book’s strengths, it is also the source of a possible weakness. Caribbean studies scholars will no doubt find much to appreciate in this fine academic study–cum-travelogue. However, a general audience may be somewhat daunted by the very detail that is at the heart of this fine, if at times meandering, book.

An eminently well-informed narrative.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-34976-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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...


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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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