Here's material for many a budding picaresque romance. It's an expedition in time, educational and entertaining, and more...




Londoner Waller offers a journey to another age and another London.

The year 1700 was not a particularly special one in history, but in 1700, London was the greatest metropolis of its day, teeming with more than half-a-million busy urbanites. Wren redefined the city skyline after the great fire, but he is scarcely mentioned. William and Mary reigned, but they matter not all in this story: this is a social history, in which we meet merchants and apothecaries, fops, footpads, highwaymen, pickpockets, prostitutes and wig snatchers—in a time when London had no central police force, houses had no numbers, and no one had knickers to show off on stage. Regular entertainment was largely in the form of public executions and other blood sports. There were cock fights, bear-baiting, and general fisticuffs, Bedlam was considered a fun place to visit, and coffeehouses and taverns were busy. But leisure was scarce for the majority and life was short for most. Few children survived to adulthood. Disease was treated by dubious means and by benighted practitioners. Decent sanitation was unknown (which, incidentally, caused the practice of ladies leaving dinner tables to the men). Waller investigates life and death and the travails of childbirth, as well as comestibles and drink, the regulation of the home, and the dictates of fashion (including the price of worsteds and silks) in 1700. Also considered are rampant crime and fierce punishment, as well as the everyday lives of the poor, the rich, and the `middling people.` To tell the story she draws copiously from contemporary bills of mortality, diaries, wills, letters, news reports and guidebooks—with the added delight of original eccentric orthography. Clearly speaking to posterity, Swift, Pepys, and Defoe appear frequently. Ultimately, despite different values and habits, these Londoners of three centuries ago, on the cusp of modern times, are no strangers to us.

Here's material for many a budding picaresque romance. It's an expedition in time, educational and entertaining, and more edifying, surely, than a visit to Bedlam.

Pub Date: May 10, 2000

ISBN: 1-56858-164-5

Page Count: 326

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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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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