A remarkably sensitive account: 21st-century readers could ask for no more insightful reinterpretation of America’s founding...

MAYFLOWER

A STORY OF COURAGE, COMMUNITY, AND WAR

Known for his special talent with a sea story, National Book Award–winner Philbrick (Sea of Glory, 2003, etc.) here uses the Pilgrims’ perilous Atlantic crossing as mere prelude to an even more harrowing tale of survival in an alien land.

From the voyage of the Mayflower to the conclusion 56 years later of King Philip’s War, this is a sensitive treatment of the transplanted Europeans’ encountering of and clashes with the native tribes of the New World, all of which prefigured in many important respects the development of later American colonies. The strict discipline of the Pilgrims’ intense spiritual commitment, responsible in many ways for the colony’s initial success, inevitably gave rise to later political and religious schisms. Notwithstanding the forging of the Mayflower Compact, their political and economic lifeline stretched, vulnerably, across the ocean. More than anything, survival depended on alliances with Native Americans, and Philbrick excels at exploding commonly accepted notions about this complicated relationship. The Pilgrims were by no means the first Europeans in New England. Explorers and fishermen had already brought contagious diseases to the continent and decimated local populations. Nor had these visitors arrived at some Eden innocent of conflict. The tribes had engaged in diplomacy and warfare for centuries; they used the Pilgrims to shift balances of power among themselves. In Philbrick’s graceful retelling of a story many think they already know, the virtues and vices of each culture are given their due, and the complexities of the conflict between and among them explored. Prominent roles are assigned to such well-known names as Squanto, Samoset, Massasoit and his son Philip, who (with the help of obtuse Governor Josiah Winslow) touched off the regional war that bears his name. The Indians contended with the likes of William Bradford, Miles Standish and Benjamin Church, who appears to have lived the role of Natty Bumpo well before James Fenimore Cooper imagined such a character.

A remarkably sensitive account: 21st-century readers could ask for no more insightful reinterpretation of America’s founding myth.

Pub Date: May 9, 2006

ISBN: 0-670-03760-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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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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