In the end, it is clear from Bunting’s lively, literate book why, in the words of an Irish poet, the Hebrides might become...

Touring the northwest quadrant of the “damp Atlantic archipelago of the British Isles.”

The quintessentially British Bunting, former longtime Guardian columnist, traces her heritage to four roughly equal components: Jewish, Irish, Scottish, English, the first being the “most exotic,” the others pretty well canceling out any temptations of ethnic nationalism. Thus freed from certain preconceptions but given to a certain kind of border Scottish-meets-Yorkshire practicality, Bunting ventured into the well-traveled Hebrides at just the time that Scotland’s nationalists were venturing most closely to breaking the union with England. As if to put off worldly things for a more sacral view of place, she began her travels with a visit to Holy Isle, on the Argyll coast, a kind of jumping-off spot into the Hebrides. As she writes of juxtaposed cultures and historical associations, she is aware not only of the ethnic and social diversity of these places, but also of the many travelers who have preceded her, including poets and writers such as Auden and Orwell. Even today, as she recounts, the places of the northwest can offer cultural surprises: that early stop was to a place once thick with monks, once Christian hermits but now Tibetan Buddhists. And thick with tourists, too; after crisscrossing the Hebrides, Bunting journeyed to St Kilda, once the most remote of the islands but now heavily visited by people seemingly in need of crossing it off a life list. Ever bookish, Bunting, in the company of a former player in the Buzzcocks, ponders such matters and quotes the French revolutionary Saint-Just: “the present order is the disorder of the future,” which perfectly describes the piles of picked-over Harris tweed in the tourist shops.

In the end, it is clear from Bunting’s lively, literate book why, in the words of an Irish poet, the Hebrides might become part of one’s “soul territory.”

Pub Date: April 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-226-47156-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017


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

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