A wonderfully thorough history of the Scots that thankfully avoids dwelling on stories that have been explored countless...




Porter (Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII, 2010) again draws from her exhaustive knowledge of 16th-century British history to explain the strong ties that eventually united Scotland and England.

The squabble between Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth had deep roots and a long history. Beginning with the ascent of Henry VII in 1485 and the start of the Tudor dynasty, the author explains the many threats against his reign, including imposters, uprisings and constant border skirmishes. In the most important royal marriage of the century, Henry sent his daughter, Margaret, to marry the future James IV, the first step toward union. Margaret was second in line to the English throne, after her brother, Henry VIII, who also wished to impair the “Auld Alliance between France and Scotland.” Porter clearly shows the ways in which Scotland was used by the English and French against each other, always at the expense of the Scots. James died at Flodden in 1513 in a diversionary attack intended to draw the English away from their attack on France. By that time, Henry VIII reigned and was bent on recovering England’s territories in France. Regents ruled for James V until he wed Mary of Guise in 1538. That union produced Mary Queen of Scots, widowed Dauphine of France who, at age 24, was a deposed queen facing 19 years of imprisonment. Her son united Scotland and England in 1603.

A wonderfully thorough history of the Scots that thankfully avoids dwelling on stories that have been explored countless times before—especially fitting now as Scotland decides whether to withdraw from the union with England.

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-312-59074-1

Page Count: 544

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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