A work so microscopically focused that it fails to convey a larger significance.

THE MONTEFELTRO CONSPIRACY

A RENAISSANCE MYSTERY DECODED

Italian historian Simonetta revisits the Pazzi conspiracy of 1478.

During Ascension Sunday Mass in the Duomo, the two powerful leaders of the Florentine state, Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici, were attacked. Stabbed 19 times, Giuliano died; Lorenzo escaped. Members of the rival Pazzi family were subsequently inculcated and variously disposed of. Simonetta delves further back to explain how the balance of power among the Italian city-states was first upset. Two years before, the Medicis’ close ally, the Duke of Milan, Galeazzo Sforza, had been assassinated, leaving his scheming counselor Cicco Simonetta (a distant relative of the author) to block Florence’s future need for defense. With the revelation of the Pazzi conspiracy, Lorenzo was indeed isolated, especially in light of new evidence pointing to the collusion of the Duke of Urbino, Federico da Montefeltro. An encrypted letter written by Federico was unearthed from a private archive in Urbino and fell into the author’s hands in 2001; he painstakingly decoded it with the help of Cicco’s Rules for Extracting Ciphered Letters Without a Sample. The letter reveals a ruthless Machiavellian intent to seize Florence. However, when the plot failed, and Cicco fell to usurpers of the Milanese state, Lorenzo had to scramble for support by groveling to the kingdom of Naples and patching things up with Rome. Lorenzo would later extract his revenge with his protégé Botticelli’s allusion to the murder and conspiracy in works such as Primavera, as delineated narrowly by the author. Dense and specialized, Simonetta’s study requires significant knowledge of the era and characters involved.

A work so microscopically focused that it fails to convey a larger significance.

Pub Date: June 3, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-385-52468-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2008

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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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