As ever, highly readable and of tremendous interest to students not just of Russian history, but also of modern...



The dean of contemporary Russian studies—and a gifted popularizer—ventures a refreshing thesis that joins the fondest dreams of the Bolsheviks to the full-circle collapse of the Soviet Empire.

Figes (History/Birkbeck Coll., Univ. of London; Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag, 2012, etc.) delivers the welcome insight that “red Russia” really began in a time of widespread famine in 1891, when Russians of various classes and regions realized that the czarist regime was of no help—so helpless, in fact, that it called on the people themselves for solutions, which “opened the door to a powerful new wave of public activity and debate which the government could not control and which quickly turned from the philanthropic to the political.” With the bloodletting of the Russo-Japanese War, thanks to an inept general command, the die was cast, proving Trotsky’s observation that a human crisis needed a match of human agency to bring about revolution. Figes carefully reminds readers that the revolution happened in stages: first in 1905, then again in 1917—twice, the first when the czar was overthrown, the second when the Bolsheviks wrestled power away from a coalition that would likely have proved more humane, and certainly more democratic, had it remained in government. The result was the grim regime of Stalin, which was not inevitable but instead hinged on the accident of Lenin’s weakness in illness and Trotsky’s talent for making enemies. Figes ably explains the subsequent Nazi-Soviet pact, which Stalin parsed as “Leninist,” and the slow thawing that came about after the dictator’s death in 1953. The author then joins the developments of the final four decades of Soviet power to the earlier era, writing that Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms were proposed much earlier—decades, in some cases—than they were enacted.

As ever, highly readable and of tremendous interest to students not just of Russian history, but also of modern geopolitics—and not least due to the fact that Soviet heir Vladimir Putin remains in power.

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9131-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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