A competent account of a spectacularly eventful historical period.




The history of an “epic clash of civilizations.”

Journalist Reston (The Conviction of Richard Nixon: The Untold Story of the Frost/Nixon Interviews, 2007, etc.) is the author or two previous books about major Christian-Muslim clashes—Dogs of God (2005) and Warriors of God (2001). Here he looks at a turbulent time featuring not one but several brutal confrontations. His Christian protagonist is Charles V (1500–58), who became Holy Roman Emperor thanks to his grandfather, Maximilian I. Charles also inherited the Low Countries from his father and the Spanish Empire from his other grandparents. Opposing Charles was Suleyman I (1494–1566), sultan of the Ottoman Empire under whom it reached the height of its power. Reston stresses that these deeply pious rulers loathed each other less than heretics within their own religion. Charles worked to suppress the charismatic Martin Luther’s rebellion against Catholic doctrine. A Sunni Muslim, Suleyman massacred Shi’ites within his realm and repeatedly invaded Shi’ite Persia in an effort to wipe them out. Both efforts failed, but three massive Ottoman invasions of Europe got as far as the gates of Vienna. History would have been vastly different had they succeeded, which almost happened because Charles and a colorful cast of secondary characters—Henry VIII of England, Francis I of France, Luther, several scheming popes—preferred to battle each other. Reston recounts the facts without the breathless dramatics many popularizers cannot resist, but since he is not a professional historian, there are few strong opinions and little deep analysis.

A competent account of a spectacularly eventful historical period.

Pub Date: May 18, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59420-225-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2009

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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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