KREMLIN WIVES

If this book proves anything, it is that the Russians have as much to learn about investigative journalism as they have about running an economy. Vasilieva, the daughter of a high-placed general and herself often in the Kremlin, researched this book in part by meeting with some of the Kremlin wives, including the widows of Brezhnev and Chernenko, and was allowed ``a few brief hours'' to examine KGB files. The extracts from the latter are both new and devastating, although they serve merely to confirm once again the total speciousness of the KGB charges against the wives of Kalinin and Molotov, respectively the president and the foreign minister of the Soviet Union under Stalin, which led to their imprisonment. The greatest value of the book lies in the mere fact of providing detail about women of whom little has been known: the freewheeling Alexandra Kollontai, an advocate of free love; the tragic Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin's second wife, who probably committed suicide, though Vasilieva deals usefully with the other scenarios that have been constructed about her death; Molotov's wife, Paulina Semyonovna, who with Molotov was Stalin's greatest friend, though it didn't prevent her spending five years in prison and in the camps; and many more obscure than these. But there is too much unattributed information, sheer speculation, and material that comes close to fantasy: Of Stalin's and Molotov's wives, she asks, without citing any evidence, ``Who could object if on occasion he [Stalin] sometimes slept with his wife's best friend and his best friend's wife?'' Or the statement that Lenin's letter to Stalin taking him to task for his harshness to Lenin's wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, ``cost him his life.'' And finally she gives us what one might call the ``everyone in Dnepropetrovsk'' standard, as in ``Everyone in Dnepropetrovsk knew of his [Brezhnev's] affair.'' Some stunning stuff, but one often feels that one is dealing with the ghost of Elvis.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1994

ISBN: 1-55970-260-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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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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