History at its best: readable, dramatic and propelled by unforgettable principals.



Desperate sailors take over the Russian Navy’s premier battleship, hoping to use their mutiny as a catalyst for revolution and the overthrow of Nicholas II.

Bascomb (Higher, 2003, etc.) presents the gripping events of June 1905 with sharply focused immediacy and a flair for high drama. The mutiny aboard the Potemkin, which threatened the entire Black Sea Fleet, was eventually suppressed, but it helped sow the seeds of the Russian Revolution. In Bascomb’s capable hands, this powerful morality play vividly reminds us never to underestimate a handful of people willing to die for an idea. The mutiny’s leaders were committed, desperate men with an equally desperate agenda—to put an end to the oppressive autocracy that had embroiled Russia in a destructive war with Japan and made life even more unbearable for the nation’s peasants. A lowly seaman named A.M. Matyushenko planned the daring takeover with another subversive sailor, G.N. Vakulenchuk. The mutiny was successful, but events quickly turned bloody. With the Potemkin anchored outside Odessa harbor, the Russian army massacred sympathetic workers lining the piers. When a squadron of ships arrived to sink the Potemkin, the crew of a second battleship also mutinied, prompting the Russian commander to flee. But the rebellion eventually stalled, failing to spark the land-based revolution its leaders had hoped for. Bascomb recounts the unfolding events in a believable and authoritative voice. He gives equal attention to the military officials determined to ruthlessly crush the revolt and to Nicholas, who had for years blindly ignored the growing unrest within his empire. Stunningly, the Potemkin mutiny seems to have only temporarily jarred the autocratic complacency of a myopic ruler largely out of touch with the world beyond his gilded palaces. It showed those hungry for revolution that there were thousands of others waiting to join their cause.

History at its best: readable, dramatic and propelled by unforgettable principals.

Pub Date: May 22, 2007

ISBN: 0-618-59206-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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