LONDON RISING

THE MEN WHO MADE MODERN LONDON

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.

Enlightening.

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...

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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