Dense politics relieved by dazzling art.



A history of Renaissance Italy emphasizing the wealthy and powerful and the artists, scholars, and architects they patronized.

Italian Renaissance scholar Hollingsworth has written several books on this eventful era, and readers would be advised to read them and a few other general histories before tackling this lively but intensely detailed chronicle of that land in the two centuries after 1400. Even readers who recognize political names from this period—Borgia, Medici, Visconti, Sforza, D’Este—may be surprised to learn that each family may represent half a dozen individuals. Luckily, the pantheon of great artists, from da Vinci to Michelangelo, stand on their own, and the book includes beautiful illustrations of their works, with architecture enjoying equal billing as painting and sculpture. From the Middle Ages through unification in the 19th century, Italy consisted of a handful of medium-sized states (Venice, Milan, the Papal States, the Kingdom of Naples) and a bewildering collection of principalities and city-states, mostly in the north, whose leaders seemed preoccupied with cheating, fighting, and murdering each other, often joined by some highly pugnacious popes. “For the rulers of the minor states of northern Italy, survival in the ruthless world of Italian politics was a matter of luck and judgement,” writes the author. “Too small to rely on their own military strength to overcome the aggression of the major powers, they needed to develop more cunning strategies—not least shrewd diplomacy and fruitful family alliances—to outwit their enemies.” Hollingsworth astutely shows how, in an era before royalties, museums, and mass-market printing, artists either worked for the rich or starved. Fortunately, it was considered proper for an aristocrat to take an interest in cultural matters. Readers struggling to sort out who was who in interminable wars and intrigues will welcome the author’s frequent digressions into the lives and work of Renaissance Italy’s pantheon of brilliant artists.

Dense politics relieved by dazzling art.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64313-546-5

Page Count: 504

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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