Bother in the Cathedral—enervating bother—as veteran juvenile author L'Engle frogmarches her 70-ish protagonist through a talkathon of troubles and a marathon of acquaintanceships with bishops, deans, nuns, and others at an Episcopal church in upper Manhattan. Katherine Vigneras, retired from a stellar concert-pianist career to what she expects to be townhouse solitude in lower Manhattan, is contacted by an old, transformed acquaintance: the once-dissolute young man who married (and divorced) Katherine's first love-rival is now . . . elderly Bishop Felix Bodeway. So, gradually, Katherine slips into the Church society: the companionable and talented family of Dean Davidson, including budding musical genius Emily (who lost her leg in what might not have been an accident); brilliant organist Llew Owen, grieving over his wife's childbirth-death; Bishop Allie Undercroft, who reminds Katherine so much of the German WW II commandant in her past; Allie's wife Yolande, former pop-star from a seedy Colombian background; Sister Isobel, once married to Allie; Yolande's sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Gomez; and Sister Catherine, a nun of extraordinary spiritual strengths. Plus, at home, there are Katherine's two tenants: orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mimi Oppenheimer, who proffers comforts and says "Oy veh"; and pregnant Dorcas, separated from a hateful husband who cheated on her with a man. And furthermore, while all of these folks pour out confidences and confessions, Katherine's own tangled past slowly bubbles forth: pianist/composer husband Justin, you see, had his hands broken and was castrated in Auschwitz; yet he urged Katherine to go forth and multiply; so children Julie and Michou (killed tragically at seven) were conceived with help from a Cardinal, a Norwegian conductor, and that Nazi commandant. The action, then, is minimal—as Katherine moves from Cathedral practice for a benefit concert to lessons-for-Emily to social gatherings, ever shuttling between the Village and St. John's. But eventually, after listening and giving advice ad infinitum, Katherine does solve the matters of Emily's secret terrer and seine obscene phone calls. With bland characters, all speaking in the same liturgical-paced cadences: an immense but serenely soaring mess—no livelier or crisper than L'Engle's last foray into adult fiction, The Other Side of the Sun.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1982

ISBN: 0374517835

Page Count: 412

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1982

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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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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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