From scraps of letters rescued from a Polish library, Lotte (a free-lance writer) and Joseph (Political Science/Yale) Hamburger reconstruct a torrid unconsummated epistolary affair (1832-34) between Sarah Austin, wife of a brilliant but sickly English legal theorist, and Byronic German Prince Puckler Muskau, whose book describing his fortune-hunting trip to England Sarah had translated, falling in love with him in the process. Believing that Sarah—a clever, attractive, spirited, and charming woman—was martyred in an unsuitable marriage and inhibited by Victorian morality, the Hamburgers miss the significant historical, psychological, even fictional dimension of her obsessive preoccupation with an idealized but notorious prince. In the explosive year of 1832, the Houses of Parliament burn and the Reform Bill passes, marking the end of a political but also emotional aristocracy (such as Muskau belonged to) and the emergence of the middle classes, along with the utilitarian philosophy that empowered them but left them spiritually impoverished. The impact of this collision of values, especially on women, was often represented in fiction, notably by George Eliot and Flaubert, for whom the Austin family might have served as an example. Like Emma Bovary's, Sarah's illusions of power, beauty, and success, fed by her correspondent (who chides her when he learns she has a mustache), victimize herself and her family. Her ambition to be married to a successful man occasionally drives her husband into positions of power where she excels as hostess, as an object of admiration, later only to suffer the indignities of his failures when she has to work at editing or live in unfashionable places. She remained a loyal but rueful wife and acquired ultimate power in publishing her husband's works after his death. A fascinating and provocative case study—though, unfortunately, the Hamburgers, with their narrow thesis, miss Sarah Austin's genuine social, political, and psychological significance. (Four-page b&w photo insert—not seen.)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-449-90307-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1991



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


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

Close Quickview