A deeply pleasurable read.




Appropriately written during a heat wave that devastated parts of Europe in 2003, Nicolson’s debut portrays a very significant season in English history.

Residents of England, of course, were oblivious to the fact that the world was teetering on the brink of World War I, but they realized quite early on that the summer of 1911 was going to be exceedingly hot. Transporting readers back to those balmy days, the author provides a neat summary of the year’s key events before her main narrative begins as the temperature starts to rise on the first day of May. Much of the text’s absorbing charm comes from Nicolson’s welcome attention to marvelous details about the risqué fashions of the day, the emergence of new dances like the chicken-trot and aristocrats’ disdain for the term “weekends,” which they considered common. She couples these delicious minutiae with long passages depicting early-20th-century English life as experienced by people ranging in importance from Queen Mary to a lowly choirboy. Nicolson’s most impressive feat is to portray the abyss that sharply divided rich from poor. She carefully marks out the deaths that occurred among the underprivileged in their squalid, furnace-like dwellings. She notes the heat’s devastating effect on farmers, who saw barely a blade of green grass all summer. She also chronicles the strikes that ran rampant: “The vast labour force of industrial England was flexing its muscles.” The stark contrast between lifestyles is neatly underscored by anecdotes about an overprivileged idiot who hired an underling to wash and dry loose change, and about the disgusted reaction of diamond-covered dowagers to Nijinsky’s dancing in the Ballet Russes’ first London performances. However, amid the upheaval created by classes increasingly at odds with one another, Nicolson does find one area of common ground: the beach, which was enjoyed by both rich and poor in this most intriguing of times.

A deeply pleasurable read.

Pub Date: June 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8021-1846-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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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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