Ill-focused look at the Belle Époque in France.

Cambor chooses three “gilded youth” to carry her story—Léon Daudet, son of Provençal novelist Alphonse Daudet; Jean-Baptiste Charcot, son of neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot; and Jeanne Hugo, granddaughter of legendary novelist Victor Hugo. The author quickly loses the thread of Jeanne, who didn’t accomplish much more in her life than marry and divorce the previous two men, while Jean-Baptiste, after practicing medicine like his father, departs the narrative to pursue his real love—high-seas exploration. In contrast to their three wise, positivist forebears, who had championed “a hard-won faith in the human capacity for progress,” the youth came of age in an unsettling time, as France faced the fallout from the Franco-Prussian War, foreign elements came under increasing suspicion and the Dreyfus Affair opened a suppurating vein of anti-Semitism. With the deaths of the aged parents in the late 1880s and ’90s, the idols had fallen and darker days were rolling in. Léon, divorced from spoiled socialite Jeanne, took up with unsavory friends such as anti-Republic royalist Charles Maurras and Édouard Drumont, founder of the Antisemitic League of France. He became a bombastic polemicist and reactionary for the conservative publication Action Française, rallying public outrage against Marie Curie’s election to the Academy of Sciences. Cambor’s dense prose obscures much of the dynamism of this “age of extremes,” and the lack of excerpts from these great authors’ works seems like a missed opportunity for important contextual development.

Diligent but tedious.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-374-16230-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2009

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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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