A timely and penetrating history of the Balkans’ next crisis zone—the Serbian province of Kosovo. With its 90 percent ethnic Albanian population dominated by Serbs with a nasty record of human-rights abuses, Kosovo is a nightmare waiting to happen. Throughout the 20th century it has presented an intractable problem to Yugoslav leaders, both royalist and communist. Malcolm, a seasoned British journalist in the Balkans and the author of a much-acclaimed work on the region (Bosnia: A Short History, 1994), demonstrates a similar appreciation for the urgency and significance of both the present turmoil and the complicated past of the region. He manages to be both concise and comprehensive. The book begins with geographic and ethnographic background and follows historical developments chronologically from the medieval period to the present. Malcolm’s prose is lively and engaging, his scholarship well documented, and he seems unafraid of offending the warring camps, displaying a strong, healthy skepticism bred of many years spent in the Balkans. He identifies several major factors in the shaping of Kosovo’s past and present situation. The Serbian Orthodox Church’s use of religious rhetoric to defend “sacred” Serbian interests (the official Serbian Patriarchate and several historic churches) is, he asserts, “a classic example of religion being mobilized and manipulated for ideological purposes.” He also objects to the Serbs’ claims of political hegemony based “on the geography of long-gone kingdoms or empires.” He blames the politicization of Albanian-Orthodox relations since the 19th century for turning divisions into outright hostility, drawing a parallel to the key role of politicians in creating the Bosnian crisis. Significantly, Malcolm openly challenges both the legality of Kosovo’s incorporation into the Serbian state as well as a historiography of Kosovo that has misrepresented parts of the region’s history due to national and ideological biases. Both scholars and general readers will appreciate Malcolm’s vigorous and trenchant analysis of the region’s troubled past and present. This is destined to become a standard work on the subject.

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8147-5598-4

Page Count: 460

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998


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


Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005