HOLY WAR

THE CRUSADES AND THEIR IMPACT ON TODAY'S WORLD

Revisionist history with a central thesis that the Crusades were among the direct determinants of latter-day strife in the Middle East. A former nun who spent seven years in an English convent, Armstrong (Through the Narrow Gate, 1981; Beginning the World, 1983), relies solely on secondary sources and insights gained during a 1983 sojourn in Israel (as producer of a Tv series on early Christianity) to make her arguable case and collateral allegations. While she offers an interpretive account of the campaigns undertaken by European soldiers of the cross in the Holy Land from 1095 through 1291, she is at least as concerned with the present and recent past, according equal attention to the modern world in general and the embattled Middle East in particular. She also offers quirky perspectives on the global village's three major monotheistic religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. With the deadly earnestness of a true believer, Armstrong (who is at pains to note she is no longer a believing or observant Christian) reaches any number of arresting conclusions. Characterizing the Crusades as ``a vicious Western initiative,'' she asserts, for instance, that there probably would have been no Jewish state in the Middle East if not for the perdurable anti-Semitism engendered in Europe by eastward marches during the Middle Ages. In like vein, she suggests that today's Israelis draw belligerent inspiration from the castles, churches, and cities left by Crusaders as reminders of a colonial movement that tried to establish itself in a hostile Muslim environment with powerful backing from the West. At the same time, she insists, contemporary Arabs (who despise Zionists ``as either new Crusades or as tools of Western imperialism'') continue to look for another Saladin's advent. In Armstrong's book, moreover, the Crusades (or their evangelical spirit) are a root cause of the Inquisition, the Nazi Holocaust, and a host of other recorded disasters-secular as well as militantly ecclesiastic. While the author may have lost her own vocation, she does not shrink from asking prospective pilgrims to take rather a lot on faith. The provocative, albeit tedious, text (previously published in the UK) has six helpful maps.

Pub Date: April 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-385-24193-3

Page Count: 408

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1991

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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