Rigorous history infused with boundless love.



Something of a Wild Scot himself, Fry (How the Scots Made America, 2005, etc.) proffers a magisterial, if not always limpid, history of his country and people.

The resilient Highland Scots, the author reminds us, have battled poverty, English domination, church shenanigans, the encroachment of non-Gaelic culture, ineffective land reform, emigration, poor harvests and—often most violently—one another. Fry, who here incorporates quotes from Gaelic and English literature and other Scottish histories, brings to the task both a fierce devotion to detail and an infectious affection for his country. The fate of the Gaelic language is one of his principal concerns, and by the end, he grudgingly and wistfully acknowledges that it is not long for this world, at least in its spoken form. He begins with the death of Elizabeth I and the elevation/transformation of James VI of Scotland to James I of England. Fry discusses the complexity of clans and later reveals that the vast enterprise of tartans owes more to the weaving industry than to clan history. He deals fairly with the sanguinary years of civil war and religious transformation. He records with a journalist’s clarity such moments as the 1727 burning of Scotland’s last “witch”; portly George IV’s pivotal 1822 visit to Scotland; the 1846 potato famine (Fry claims the Scots handled it much more humanely and efficiently than the Irish); and a 1988 oil-platform disaster in the North Sea. Less engaging for general readers are the learned but lugubrious disquisitions on land legislation and religious reform. Of great use are maps, a list of key characters and a chronology.

Rigorous history infused with boundless love.

Pub Date: March 15, 2007

ISBN: 0-7195-6104-3

Page Count: 380

Publisher: John Murray/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2007

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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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