BROKEN LIVES

SEPARATION AND DIVORCE IN ENGLAND 1660-1857

The concluding volume of Stone's excellent trilogy on marriage in early modern England (Uncertain Unions, 1992; Road to Divorce, 1990). Starting with a summary of the legal background—the laws and rituals governing divorce when it required an act of Parliament- -Stone introduces two aspects of English life that figure prominently in the cases that follow: the role of servants in family life, and the absence of privacy. Although the substance of the cases is essentially lurid—tales of infidelity, betrayal, retribution, abuse, and humiliation—Stone's style is technical and scholarly, true to its sources in the detailed documentation that the divorces of the rich produced, revealing the lives of prominent but not famous people who otherwise hold no place in history. The cases demonstrate the shifts in society from status to contract, from religious to secular understanding, as well as the shift in power from men (who in the early years held women and their children as property) to women. They demonstrate the increased demands that both men and women made on marriage, transforming it from a merely economic arrangement to a source of pleasure, recreation, and companionship, especially in the large country houses where infidelity seemed as inevitable as boredom. One woman sued her husband for impotence, and Stone reveals the various ways that men were required to demonstrate their virility in public. Among the author's many insights is his noting of romantic fiction's disruptive role in family life, implying that, in some hands, literacy and access to popular romance were dangerous. A fascinating and factual introduction to the history of domestic life. (Illustrations)

Pub Date: July 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-19-820254-7

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1993

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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 moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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