An engaging pursuit through history and geography, terminating in the human heart of darkness.

WILLOUGHBYLAND

ENGLAND'S LOST COLONY

A varied, often fascinating search for the history and remains of England’s 17th-century South American colony in what is now Suriname.

Freelance journalist Parker (Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming’s Jamaica, 2015, etc.) begins and ends in today’s Suriname, where he can find virtually no remains of England’s once-flourishing colony, which began with tobacco and then segued to sugar. Necessary, all these centuries later, is much back story, including tales of the English civil war, the Restoration, and the major European powers (England, France, Spain, Netherlands) competing in the New World. The author carefully weaves these essential colors throughout the tapestry of his text and also attends to other significant matters, including Europeans’ attitudes regarding indigenous peoples, women, religion, royalty, and slavery. Parker delivers a colorful cast of characters, principal among them Francis Willoughby, a titled Englishman who danced near the edge of a deadly ravine throughout his life (shifting politics and loyalties) but who eventually gained control of a rich chunk of terrain in northern South America, where he established his colony, returned to England to enlist more settlers, and then did not return for a decade. As the author points out—and emphasizes near the end—all went more or less smoothly for a while, unless, of course, you were indigenous or brought to the colony as a slave. The relevant colonial powers actually co-existed peacefully for a time, and Willoughbyland grew. Then there were significant international disputes back in Europe and illness—oddly, brought to the colony by Willoughby himself on his return. Furthermore, as Parker ably emphasizes, old-fashioned greed and religious and political divisions awoke, and all began to implode, though the Netherlands kept control until 1975. Parker also relates the sundry involvement of writer Aphra Behn.

An engaging pursuit through history and geography, terminating in the human heart of darkness.

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-11283-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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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 moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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