Anyone who lives in a home with a kitchen, living room, bathroom and bedroom will delight in reading this history of the...

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IF WALLS COULD TALK

AN INTIMATE HISTORY OF THE HOME

This masterful social history illustrates the lessons you could never have learned in school, and with a great deal more entertainment.

With inspired precision, historian Worsley (The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace, 2010) entertainingly traces the expansion of the rooms of the house from medieval times to the present. As chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the author has opportunities not only to research upper-class habits through the centuries, but also to be able to physically experience the arduous lives of the lower-class men and women who served them. One of the great strengths of her book is the exposure of all levels of society throughout the history of England, with delightful notations of daily life most readers would not ponder: the food they ate, the way they cooked it, the privacy they lacked, the diseases they endured, etc. Just the fact that bathing was out of favor from 1500 to 1750 will make many readers appreciate living in modern times. Many of today’s common necessities, such as the toilet, the dishwasher and the kitchen extractor fan, changed daily life in unimaginable ways. Even so, in 1960 only 60 percent of London homes had a refrigerator. The availability of an army of servants to manage a home faded as the opportunities for education and betterment lured the staff away from the scullery and the pantry. This lighthearted approach to the most intimate moments of our lives informs, amuses and titillates. Who could not be enthralled by the history of toilet paper?

Anyone who lives in a home with a kitchen, living room, bathroom and bedroom will delight in reading this history of the development of home life.

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8027-7995-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

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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