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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2007

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?

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

Did you like this book?