An exemplary history that gives a nuanced view of a society long reduced to a few clichés.

CHILDREN OF ASH AND ELM

A HISTORY OF THE VIKINGS

A fresh history of the Vikings and their world.

The Vikings, writes Uppsala University archaeologist Price, whose books include The Viking Way, were “as individually varied as every reader of this book.” Yet, he adds, it’s possible to advance some generalizations about them. They regarded the world as a hostile place to be met with violence that was supernaturally empowered by their gods. The Vikings thought of themselves as children of the great ash tree Yggdrasill, “the steed of the terrible one,” an epithet for Odin. Over the course of three centuries, they ranged over an impressively large territory in a number of guises, from traders and soldiers to raiders and legendarily ferocious fighters. One Norse woman lived in Greenland, meeting First Peoples, and later visited Rome and met the pope; moving to Iceland after becoming a nun, she was “probably the most traveled woman on the planet.” In this elegantly conceived, constantly surprising narrative, Price charts this evolution. When Viking merchants landed near wealthy British monasteries to attend trade fairs, one of their number, thinking hard about the possibilities, likely turned to his fellows and said something like, “Why don’t we just take it?” So effectively did they put the fear in their targets that the English were soon calling them “slaughter-wolves.” With clarity and verve, Price examines various aspects of Viking society, including the place of women and transgender people on the battlefield and other venues of warrior society; the structure of warrior cults such as the berserkers; what Viking mass burials tell us about the people thus interred; and, especially, the structure of the Viking economy, which was enriched by the widespread application of slavery. The author also considers the last generations of Vikings as pirates whose society, though founded on violence, was also definitively democratic.

An exemplary history that gives a nuanced view of a society long reduced to a few clichés. (16-page color insert; maps)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-465-09698-5

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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