A compelling trek through English history in the company of some remarkable women.




How the little-known queens of England’s early history contributed to the nation’s political stability—or didn’t.

In this vast, rigorous text, Hilton (Athenais: The Life of Louis XIV’s Mistress, the Real Queen of France, 2002) includes an impressive bibliography, and the reading experience requires frequent switchbacks and consultations of family trees (mercifully provided). The narrative encompasses the lives of queens from William the Conqueror’s wife, Matilda of Flanders, whose alliances were key to his success at Hastings in 1066, to Elizabeth of York, who had been designated as a bride for her uncle Richard III, until the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 heralded the triumph of Henry VII and the end of the medieval era. The author is fascinated by the things that set these women apart among their sex: their “sacred capital“; their legal rights (they could manage their own affairs, while most females other than widows had to submit to masculine authority); their uncommon education; their piety and the cult of maternity associating them with the Virgin Mary. Hilton examines the double standard that depicted assertive queens as unbecomingly masculine viragos. Strategically tracing tangled hereditary strains, the narrative moves from the rule of the Normans and the Angevins to the “apogee of English queenship” under the very literate Matilda of Scotland and later Matilda of Boulogne, who was adored by her husband, King Stephen. Foreign queens from the South included the exceptionally powerful Eleanor of Aquitaine, who overcame stifling 12th-century strictures to become a formidable politician, and a terrifying mother-in-law. During the turbulent period of the Plantagenet monarchs, the extraordinary Isabella of France first deposed her husband’s probable homosexual lover and then King Edward II himself in order to install her son on the throne. The book closes with the feud between the houses of Lancaster and York, painting a touching portrait of the love match between commoner Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV.

A compelling trek through English history in the company of some remarkable women.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-60598-105-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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