A stirring story of women strong enough to both embrace and defy tradition.

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MAHARANIS

THE EXTRAORDINARY TALE OF FOUR INDIAN QUEENS AND THEIR JOURNEY FROM PURDAH TO PARLIAMENT

The British historian examines the remarkable transition of India’s female royalty from fairy-tale queens to activist powerbrokers as colonial fiefdoms merged into Asia’s largest democracy.

Moore (The Thieves’ Opera, 1998, etc.) focuses on three ancient families, the Gaekwads, Narayans and Jaipurs, who ruled over separate Indian states endowed under British colonial rule as the 19th century closed with foreboding. Moore sets the stage meticulously, stressing the advantage British overlords sought by fostering traditional administration and all its observances, so as long trade revenues flowed unfettered to London. Actual policies, of course, were strictly dictated in a kind of offstage whisper, and Indian royal families had no choice but to carry on with the pageant. For the queens, including Chimnabai II of Baroda (born ca. 1872 as Garabai Ghatge), traditional burdens of their role included the concept of purdah: no maharani should be seen by anyone other than her husband or necessary body servants. They lived literally screened off from the world, even at public functions. Devotion to lord and master also included the implied obligation not to outlive him; failing that, widows were expected to climb aboard his funeral pyre in sati—an act, Moore relates, often undertaken as culmination of the union and not under duress. From this setting, the author moves on to Chimnabai’s impulsive daughter, Indira, who defied her parents by actually marrying for love, and thence to Indira’s daughter, Ayesha, who escaped purdah with finality by hobnobbing with the likes of Jackie Kennedy, running successfully for Parliament in 1962, and becoming a lifelong opponent of the populist Indira Gandhi. Through it all, a gathering curse seemed to envelop the once-beloved maharajahs, who regularly fell from polo ponies or succumbed to generic alcoholism, leaving their magnificent ancient palaces empty and crumbling, with a little help from Mrs. Gandhi’s rapacious tax collectors,.

A stirring story of women strong enough to both embrace and defy tradition.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2005

ISBN: 0-670-03368-5

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2004

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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

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