An intelligent, sympathetic portrait that challenges popular views of the Howe family.



Historian Flavell reappraises the careers of two maligned British commanders in the Revolutionary War and shows how female relatives tried to burnish the men’s reputations.

In “the first whole-family history of the Howes,” the author focuses on the brothers Gen. William Howe, Richard Admiral Lord Howe, and, to a lesser degree, Brig. Gen. George Howe, who was killed near Fort Ticonderoga in the Seven Years’ War. With 10 offspring, the Howes’ aristocratic parents favored “the rather heartless tradition of recycling the dynastic names of dead children.” The early chapters move slowly as Flavell introduces generations of Georges and Sophias and Charlottes and remote events such as the War of Jenkins’ Ear. After 100 or so pages, as the Revolutionary War nears, the narrative gains—and retains—a momentum that effectively turns a group biography into a swiftly paced history of the war and its aftermath, when the public vilified William and Richard for their strategic missteps but later restored them to high esteem. Flavell balances accounts of battles in America with tales of how well-connected Howe women in England tried to advance the brothers’ careers in the press and elsewhere. In 1774, their sister made a noteworthy effort when she tried—over games of chess with Benjamin Franklin—to help Richard find a peaceful alternative to the looming war. Throughout, the author rebuts—sometimes convincingly—common views of the Howes, including that as commander of the British land forces in America, William showed “at the least profound character and professional flaws and, at worst, a conspiratorial ambition to promote the Howes and their quest to save the empire.” Flavell also labels as “probably not true” the rumors that William had a distracting affair with Elizabeth Lloyd Loring. The author offers much for historians to argue about and plenty for patient readers to enjoy.

An intelligent, sympathetic portrait that challenges popular views of the Howe family.

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-061-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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Another amiable book that is just what you’d expect from Willie.


An epistolary grab bag of memories, lyrics, jokes, and homespun philosophy from the legendary musician.

As an indefatigable touring artist, Nelson (b. 1933) has had a lot of time on his hands during the pandemic. Following his collaboration with his sister, Me and Sister Bobbie, the road warrior offers a loose collection of lessons from a full life. If you’ve never read a book by or about Nelson, this one—characteristically conversational, inspirational, wise, funny, and meandering—is a good place to start. The book is filled with lyrics to many of his best-known songs, most of which he wrote but others that he has made his own as well. For those steeped in The Tao of Willie (2006), some of the stories will be as familiar as the songs—e.g., the origin story of his nicknames, including Booger Red and Shotgun Willie; his time as a DJ and a door-to-door Bible and encyclopedia salesman; early struggles in Nashville with “all the record executives who only see music as a bottom-line endeavor”; and return to his home state of Texas. Many of the personal stories about family and friends can be found in Me and Sister Bobbie, but they are good stories from a rich life, one of abundance for which Nelson remains profoundly grateful. So he gives thanks in the form of letters: to Texas, America, God, golf, and marijuana; the audiences who have supported him and the band that has had his back; those who have played any part in Farm Aid or his annual Fourth of July concert bashes; and departed friends and deceased heroes, one of whom, Will Rogers, answers him back. Nelson even addresses one to Covid-19, which looms over this book, making the author itchy and antsy. Even at 87, he can’t wait to be on the road again.

Another amiable book that is just what you’d expect from Willie.

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7852-4154-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper Horizon

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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