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 19, 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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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