An ably edited collection of letters revealing life on the Civil War home front. Using correspondence handed down through her father's family, Berry reconstructs the lives of Kentucky politician Brutus J. Clay and his circle of friends and relatives. ``Reading those letters,'' she writes, ``was like walking through the door of a nineteenth-century drawing room and sitting down among its inhabitants busily gossiping about their neighbors, exchanging recipes, and musing about politics.'' The conversational quality is a very real strength of this collection. Berry charts the course of Clay's rise to political prominence, his growth from householder to statesman. She also comments wisely on the culture of the time, a culture in which slaveholders referred to ``our negroes'' and worried about being poisoned by ill-treated kitchen hands seeking revenge, in which scarlet fever and cholera were too common visitors, in which a farmer's perennial worry about floods and drought alternated with concern about whether Kansas was to enter the Union as a free or slave state. Berry's explications of the contents of the letters are helpful, although she sometimes strives too hard for effect. Throughout the pages of this absorbing book, Clay remains a stern yet moderate presence, questioning whether it might be possible to chart a middle course, a ``middle confederacy'' of the border states in order better to separate North from South. Loyal to the Union cause but sympathetic to the rebels, Clay reveals in his letters little-known aspects of Civil War politics, notably a Chicago convention of so-called Union Democrats, called to find ways to defeat the sitting president at the polls. Clay, as Berry notes, ``denounced President Lincoln for using extreme methods to prosecute the war.'' This volume will be of considerable interest to students of the Civil War. (32 pages b&w photos and maps, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1996

ISBN: 1-55970-342-3

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996

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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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