THE QUEEN

ROYALTY AND REALITY

Harris (Thatcher, 1988, etc.) provides a dreary if competent chronological summary of Queen Elizabeth II's life and role in British history. Long live the queen. Elizabeth has ably and nobly represented the monarchy for more than 40 years. As her family gets sordid and scandalous press, she plods on, sovereign of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, with the duke of Edinburgh, if not exactly by her side, then a few paces behind her. Harris dutifully summarizes the queen's duty-filled history; he explains and defends the institution of the monarchy; he talks about the monarchy's mystique and about the disagreement between those who would keep it magical and those who would make it more accessible. Regrettably, this virtuous survey does not make very interesting copy, and Harris provides little new material. He traces the queen's sense of obligation and morality back to her father, George VI, the shy and reluctant king who ascended the throne in 1936 after the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII. We see ``Lillibet'' as a child and follow the royal family through the Second World War, when they became a beloved symbol of Britain's courage and fortitude. Harris then dutifully and soberly traces Elizabeth's marriage and coronation; her sister Margaret's ill-fated romance with Peter Townsend; the queen's relationships with her various prime ministers; her children's scandalous marriages; the annus horribilis, etc., etc.—all in order, with some pretty rough transitions. More interesting is the discussion of the queen's role as arbitrator and consensus maker in the Commonwealth; much less so are ones about her income, her staff (why ladies-in-waiting are not black), the European Community, and monarchic reformation. Harris's history seems intended for an unsophisticated audience, but some terms (e.g., the Privy Council, the Annual Register, the queen's prerogative) may be unclear to Americans. A royal rehash that's a royal bore.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 1995

ISBN: 0-312-11878-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1994

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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