Five men pick up the pieces and reconstruct London in the aftermath of the English Civil War, the plague and the Great Fire of 1666.

In his first book, London native Hollis deftly interweaves the stories of architect Christopher Wren, polymath Robert Hooke, diarist John Evelyn, builder Nicholas Barbon and philosopher John Locke, who laid the foundations for the thriving metropolis that exists today. He begins by briefly sketching their early histories, slowly establishing their credentials leading up to September 1666, when flames consumed huge portions of London. He also paints a colorful portrait of Restoration-era society, with a particular focus on the period’s architecture. London in the 17th century, he reminds us, was often dangerous and lacked some of the most basic services for care of the sick and the poor. Examining how his subjects’ lives played out in the aftermath of tragedy, the author strikes a fine balance between personal and professional details. Summaries of Locke’s influential philosophies are accompanied by an account of his perilous exile in Holland after being accused of complicity in a plot to assassinate Charles II. Assessment of Hooke’s role as chief surveyor following the Great Fire sit alongside tales of his sexual peccadilloes. Wren’s agonizing struggle to gain approval of his designs for St. Paul’s Cathedral is described in evocative, highly readable prose. Hollis never forgets to fill in the details of London’s rebuilding as the stories of his five main characters unfold. The construction of St. Paul’s Cathedral (practically a sixth protagonist in the book) is the focal point for these various narrative strands.


Pub Date: June 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8027-1632-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2008

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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