Tales of courage and fortitude—a stiff upper lip, if you will—that should appeal to Anglophiles as well as students of...




An inside view of the lives and responsibilities of the valiant women who married officers of the British Foreign Service, where rules were rigid but creativity counted for a lot.

“English ambassadresses are usually on the dotty side,” Hickman quotes Nancy Mitford’s view in the introduction to her account of the not-so-glamorous side of embassy life, originally published in England in 1999. Hickman, herself the daughter of an ambassadress, calls primarily on the journals and letters of some remarkable ladies, whether dotty or not, who followed their husbands to posts ranging from Constantinople in the 17th century to Slovakia in the 1990s. Some, like Emma Hamilton (Naples), Isabel Burton (Brazil and Syria), and Vita Sackville-West (Persia) are well known in their own right. Most, like Catherine Macartney and Ella Sykes (posted to the Chinese-Russian border), claimed their places in this history because of their voluminous correspondence. Many were driven to letter-writing by loneliness and hardship, but they managed to convey the thrill and challenge of their exotic surroundings. Other wives corresponded about the opulence and romance of their assignments (one, in particular, was greatly impressed by the coronation of Czar Nicholas I). Whatever the circumstances, the roles of foreign office wives were, until recently, precisely outlined—calling for the ambassadress to be hostess, helpmate, and manager, sometime cook, gardener, nurse, and even den mother to the wives of underlings in the embassy or consulate. The protocols were maintained in spite of revolution, famine, drought, and anti-British sentiment, as noted in Mary Fraser’s reports from China in the 19th century. Not the least of the burdens was separation from their children, who were often sent off to British boarding schools thousands of miles from their parents. Hackman divides her chapters by subject (e.g. “Travel,” “Social Life,” “Contemporary Wives”), successfully weaving material from across the centuries into each chapter.

Tales of courage and fortitude—a stiff upper lip, if you will—that should appeal to Anglophiles as well as students of history and women’s studies. (16 pp. b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 6, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-018862-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet