An excellent history, but more importantly, a sharply written portrait of a people and their long struggle to survive.




Walsh (Journalism/Kingston Coll.; The News from Ireland: Foreign Correspondents and the Irish Revolution, 2008) digs into the heart of the fight to establish an Irish Republic.

In 1914, British Parliament passed the Home Rule Act, but it was suspended until after World War I, and during a period of 10 years, the English bought 12 million acres from large estates for purchase by the tenants. Home Rule was not enough for the “small but insuppressible island.” Walsh provides an eye-opening look at one of many new countries emerging after the war and their similar struggles. The Easter Uprising of 1916 was the beginning, and it produced enough martyrs to build the small army of volunteers who picked up the cause. The election of 1918, with women voting for the first time, returned a majority for Sinn Féin, who didn’t wait for permission to rule themselves and established a government in Dublin. This Dáil Éireann, the Irish parliament, took power from the British government, but Britain paid little attention until 1919, when it was outlawed, forcing it underground. Walsh’s narrative is really about the toughness of the Irish people, the enormous role of the Catholic Church, the end of the landed gentry, and how the Irish Republican Army led what the author calls a flawed revolution. The Royal Irish Constabulary was the model for colonial police, and they were the symbol of British rule and the prime Irish Republican Army target for assassination. It was murderous and cruel on both sides, a conflict with vendetta the only rule. Anarchy was the order of the day as the IRA robbed banks, stole cars, and shot anyone in their way. They were not the only beasts in this game, however. Ultimately, writes the author, the “sense that the revolution was a failure because it did not create a new country was the bitterest feeling of all.”

An excellent history, but more importantly, a sharply written portrait of a people and their long struggle to survive.

Pub Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63149-195-5

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

Did you like this book?