A palatable, lively rendition of the British imperial blues.

BEHIND THE PALACE DOORS

FIVE CENTURIES OF SEX, ADVENTURE, VICE, TREACHERY, AND FOLLY FROM ROYAL BRITAIN

A succinct romp through the perennially popular gyrations of British royalty.

There is no end to American fascination with British royalty, and no facet of this entertainment that Washington Post contributor Farquhar (A Treasury of Royal ScandalsA Treasury of Foolishly Forgotten American, etc.) will not ply. In fact, this snappy chronicle of English kings, queens and knaves proves a terrifically accessible history of English dynastic dysfunction, told in brief chapters, including genealogical charts gracing the beginning of each “house.” With the focus on the curious personalities themselves—and there are plenty, from monstrous Henry VIII to her limpid steadiness, Good Queen Bess—hilarity and pathos abound. Despite the surpassing familiarity of many of these tales, they become irresistible and even moving in Farquhar’s able hands. Among others, the author looks at the boy king, Edward VI, who inherited Henry’s throne at age 9 and proved, in his brief life, a surprisingly forceful leader, navigating the machinations of his two scheming uncles and throwing his two older sisters off from the right of succession; Charles I, who was beheaded, his remains sold as “ghoulish souvenirs” to the crowd; and the extravagantly licentious Charles II, along with his memorable mistresses Barbara Villiers Palmer and Nell Gwyn. There are a few moments of fresh splendor, such as the quixotic story of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the young Stuart grandson of James II and pretender to the English throne; the loathsome marital relations between George IV, “a selfish, overindulged libertine,” and his second wife (and cousin) Caroline of Brunswick; and the touching affection young Victoria expressed for her beloved husband, Albert (“my heart is quite going”).

A palatable, lively rendition of the British imperial blues.

Pub Date: March 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8129-7904-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2010

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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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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