An energetic look at a still-misunderstood period in late antiquity.



A history lecturer illuminates the fractious, little-studied period between the fall of the Roman Empire in the West and rise of the Ottomans in the 15th century.

With the breakup of the Roman Empire by Diocletian in the third-century CE into West and East, largely along linguistic lines, two distinct identities were forged over the succeeding centuries and grew increasingly estranged from and antagonistic to each other: Latin vs. Greek and Catholic vs. Orthodox. Brownworth examines the long-maligned Eastern half of the Empire, which saw its capital of Nova Roma chosen by Constantine the Great in 328 CE become the glorious, inimitable city of Constantinople. The author reminds us that the denizens of the East always referred to themselves as Roman, and the term Byzantium was later applied by Enlightenment scholars. Brownworth traces the highlights over the next 1,000 years of violent upheaval and murderous dynastic succession: e.g., early doomed attempts by Julian to repaganize the empire; fighting back the assaults by the barbarians and the sacking of Rome; the golden age under Justinian, who established Roman Law and reconquered numerous lost lands; and meeting the Islamic challenge from the seventh-century onward with holy wars and crusades until the ultimate devastation of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453. While the East held many of the ancient secular texts safe from the so-called Dark Ages that stymied the West, the author concentrates mostly on military, rather than cultural, events. Brownworth delivers just enough of the big picture for interested readers to pursue specific events in greater detail.

An energetic look at a still-misunderstood period in late antiquity.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-307-40795-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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