A fascinating history of 30 years of trailblazing women who “invented a new image and identity…in a culture where they were...




A fresh, unique view of the iconic flapper.

In her latest book, Simon (Emerita, English/Skidmore Coll.; The Greatest Shows on Earth: A History of the Circus, 2014, etc.) digs beneath stereotype to provide an illuminating cultural study of “a new being” who “burst defiantly on to the cultural stage: skinny, young, impetuous and flirtatious.” At this time, both Britain and the United States had more women than men, which helped empower women to, among other things, choose their own husbands—or even remain unmarried. Suddenly, women wanted more education than just art, embroidery, and music. They wanted the freedom to go out without a chaperone and rid themselves of constricting clothes like corsets. The end of the Victorian era saw the rumblings of female revolution against, among other thoughts, the belief that girls who taxed their brains took energy from their reproductive organs. Many felt threatened, frightened of changes in the status quo. The beginnings of the suffrage movement sparked a flame in womanhood. Though their fight was denigrated, change was inevitable. Flappers were a bit of an aberration in that they were perennial adolescents, seized “with the everlasting, inexorable desire to be girls.” As Simon ably shows, psychologist G. Stanley Hall painted them as fresh, wild, naïve, coquettish, innocent, and with little intellect. He believed that “a woman should be educated enough to understand her husband’s world, but not enough to participate in the world.” Additionally, the new silent movies, along with other trends in popular culture, showed strong, independent women. From J.M Barrie to Scott Fitzgerald to H.L. Mencken, from 1890s rebels to 1920s flappers, Simon cogently outlines a significant period of cultural life in the U.S. and Britain.

A fascinating history of 30 years of trailblazing women who “invented a new image and identity…in a culture where they were continually warned about the real losses…that they might suffer if they acted upon their secret needs and desires.”

Pub Date: April 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78914-071-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Reaktion Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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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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