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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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