Illuminating reading for students of early modern European history.

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VICTORY OF THE WEST

THE GREAT CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM CLASH AT THE BATTLE OF LEPANTO

A detailed account of one of the world’s great battles, the fateful encounter between the fleets of Western allies and the Ottoman Empire.

In October 1571, the “Holy League,” made up of forces from Venice, Spain, the Papal States and elsewhere in Mediterranean Europe, sent a great armada against Sultan Selim II’s battle-hardened forces, agents of an undisguised program of imperial expansion and of jihad. For Italian historian Capponi, there’s no sweetening the latter term; as he writes, jihad implies “holy war on behalf of Islam,” as the massacre at Otranto, still resounding in Christian Europe, demonstrated all too clearly. Determined to stop the Ottoman push toward Rome and other key points, the Holy League’s forces gathered along the western coast of Greece and lured “the Lord Turk” into the straits off Lepanto. As Capponi records, the battle hinged on many factors, some unforeseeable. One was the steady improvement in Western military technology, armaments that brought shock and awe to the enemy, even though Capponi urges that it would not be for another century that technological superiority would prove decisive. Changes in military organization and command structure figured. Politics also played a part, and to read Capponi’s account is to be constantly surprised that the bickering allies could have pulled victory away from the monolithic Ottomans. Yet they did, in a fierce battle that cost the future novelist Miguel de Cervantes an arm and turned on one of the finest flanking maneuvers in naval history, a textbook case even today. Capponi provides enough geeky detail to satisfy a Tom Clancy fan, but this is a story told as a story, and he does well—especially in the matter-of-fact ending, in which the principal players in the battle, winners and losers alike, suffer the effects of politicking.

Illuminating reading for students of early modern European history.

Pub Date: April 30, 2007

ISBN: 0-306-81544-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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...

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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