Compelling but frustratingly narrow and not terribly convincing.




More questions than answers emerge from this intriguing look at the problematic marriage that helped spark the English Civil War.

Whitaker (Mad Madge, 2003, etc.) is adept at depicting the spirit and temper of this age of religious fervor, while avoiding finer academic distinctions and hard contextual references. She calls the marriage of Charles I and Henrietta Maria “one of the greatest romances of all time,” yet it was roiled by crises largely due to Henrietta’s supercilious intractability, and the author can’t disguise her ambivalence toward the Catholic zealot who rubbed the English the wrong way. Freshly perusing primary sources, including correspondence between Charles and Henrietta, Whitaker finds that the 1625 political match grew into a warm marriage and meeting of the minds, despite religious differences. She was the lively, outspoken younger sister of Louis XIII, daughter of the terrifying Marie de Medici and assassinated Huguenot King Henri IV. He was the browbeaten son of England’s James I, for years swayed by the influence of his father’s favorite, Lord Buckingham. Henrietta’s huge train of Catholic ladies and her religious rituals at Somerset House scandalized the English, and at one point her retinue was sent packing back to France. By the 1630s, after years of luxurious living and numerous children, Charles’ animus against Parliament led him to take increasingly provocative steps, including the persecution of Puritans and the reinstatement of high church ceremonies viewed by a suspicious populace as the run-up to outright popery. Whitaker’s study shows that with each challenge the royal couple grew more immovable and unbending; Henrietta’s pleas for concessions to Scottish Presbyterianism came too late. Would the Civil War have ended differently had the queen had stayed by her husband’s side instead of fleeing to France? This is among the many issues that the author does not thoroughly address.

Compelling but frustratingly narrow and not terribly convincing.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-393-06079-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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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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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

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