A well-researched, engaging history.

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1808

THE FLIGHT OF THE EMPEROR: HOW A WEAK PRINCE, A MAD QUEEN, AND THE BRITISH NAVY TRICKED NAPOLEON AND CHANGED THE NEW WORLD

A journalist’s highly readable account of Portuguese monarch João VI’s historic 1808 flight from Europe and subsequent exile in Brazil.

In 1804, Napoleon crowned himself emperor of the French. But by 1807, the year Gomes’ book opens, he “ruled as absolute lord of Europe.” Aside from Britain, only one continental nation, Portugal, remained unconquered. Unwilling to surrender but unable to fend off a full-scale invasion, the fearful and often indecisive Prince Regent João VI, whose “sickly obesity gave him the air of a peaceful dullard,” deceived Napoleon long enough to transfer his entire court to Brazil. Shepherded by the indomitable British navy, the trans-Atlantic voyage was fraught with challenges for the Portuguese ruler and his retinue, who faced the ever-present risk of disease. But it was João’s abandoned people who paid the price for his ultimately successful flight. By 1814, 500,000 Portuguese had starved or died or fled the country to escape the chaos created in the wake of their monarch’s departure. Meanwhile, the court lived comfortably in sultry Rio de Janeiro. The greedy beneficiaries of the colony’s mineral and agricultural wealth, João and his nouveau riche ministers still managed to lay down the cornerstones of a national infrastructure. They built roads, schools and factories, opened up Brazilian ports to trade with other countries and united quarreling colonial provinces. The king many dismissed as unfit to rule departed in 1821, with only one-third his retinue, to return to a Portugal wracked by chaos and revolution. In a grand twist of historical irony, what he left behind became the makings of a vibrantly complex society that now stands poised to become a major economic power.

A well-researched, engaging history.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-0762787968

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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