A gripping chronicle of an epic voyage of hardship and survival that deserves to be as well known now as it once was.  (16...

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IN THE HEART OF THE SEA

THE TRAGEDY OF THE WHALESHIP

A vivid account of a 19th-century maritime disaster that engaged the popular imagination of the time with its horrors of castaways and cannibalism.

Just west of the Galápagos Islands, the Nantucket whale ship Essex was struck on November 20, 1820, by an 85-foot bull sperm whale.  Yet the sinking was only the beginning of a fantastic voyage, narrated with brio and informed speculation by Philbrick, director of the Egan Institute of Maritime Studies and a research fellow at the Nantucket Historical Association.  For three months the 20 men who escaped the Essex drifted in three smaller open boats, enduring squalls, attacks by sharks and another whale, starvation, dehydration, madness, and despair, capped by eating the flesh of comrades who had begun to die off – and, in one instance, casting lots to see who would be killed and eaten next.  When eight remaining castaways were retrieved off the coast of Chile, they had sailed almost 4,500 nautical miles across the Pacific – farther than both William Bligh’s post-Bounty voyage and Ernest Shackleton’s trek to South Georgia Island nearly a century later.  An account by first mate Owen Chase provided fodder for, most famously, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, which took Chase’s description of the whale’s “decided, calculated mischief” as its central motif.  Philbrick uses Chase’s narrative and an unpublished memoir by the ship’s cabin boy, as well as recent medical and psychological discoveries, to limn the terror of men faced with their most elemental fears.  He also brings to life the Quaker-dominated society of Nantucket, including its ambivalence toward African-American sailors and its short existence as a microcosm of an emerging America:  “relentlessly acquisitive, technologically advanced, with a religious sense of its own destiny.”

A gripping chronicle of an epic voyage of hardship and survival that deserves to be as well known now as it once was.  (16 pages b&w illustrations) (First serial rights to Vanity Fair; author tour)

Pub Date: May 8, 2000

ISBN: 978-0141001821

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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...

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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

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

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