The author’s extensive knowledge of lifestyles and simple, concise writing combine for an enjoyable book showing how...




Social historian Flanders (The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens' London, 2014, etc.) follows the evolution of the home from an edifice offering minimal shelter to present-day standards.

First, the author classifies European cultures into "house" countries and "home" countries. The former includes those populations that spend their time in public spaces such as restaurants, promenading. The latter is more an experience of comfort, the imagined state of the good life. With that division, Flanders chronicles the life-altering changes to the structure of houses over the centuries. One of the first was the arrival of the fireplace and chimney and their placement away from the center of the room, enabling larger, two-story houses. Soon, the availability of glass allowed larger windows, which led to curtains. Suddenly, there was a need for privacy, so extra rooms were added, while the lovely large windows were covered to keep out light. The author compares the house countries in which houses were a status symbol to the Northwest European home countries, where the concentration was on convenience and enjoyment. Flanders does not neglect the inhabitants of these buildings, and her telling of a family making a stew perfectly illustrates the pre-industrial roles shared equally by men and women. The Industrial Revolution changed the makeup of the home. Workers now left the home to make a living in factories and offices. New technologies developed such things as piped water, plumbing, heat, electricity, and, eventually, 20th-century “labor saving” devices, which quickly created the divisions into gender-based roles. Covering all aspects of home life, Flanders even delves into modern architecture, popular in the house countries, which creates designs for ostentation rather than usefulness.

The author’s extensive knowledge of lifestyles and simple, concise writing combine for an enjoyable book showing how families have joined, separated, and rejoined over the last 500 years.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-06735-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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