A short book admirable for wide research that you can read in a day, if you don’t get bogged down in the footnotes.

WOMEN WARRIORS

AN UNEXPECTED HISTORY

Toler (Heroines of Mercy Street: The Real Nurses of the Civil War, 2016, etc.) seeks out courageous women of history who “have been pushed into the shadows, hidden in the footnotes, or half-erased.”

The historical records are thin; men don’t like to admit that a woman could lead them, let alone conquer them. As such, victorious women are often ignored by history, and the author provides examples from the second millennium B.C.E. up through Russian women aviators. Even legendary warriors—e.g., Fu Hao of 13th-century China—aren’t always identified as women in the records. “The main thing that struck me when I looked at women warriors across cultures rather than in isolation is how many examples there are and how lightly they sit on our collective awareness,” writes Toler. Throughout the book, she uses numerous footnotes, asides, comments, absurdities, and personal opinions that should have been included in the main text. However, once readers learn to scan them, they will clearly see a pattern of women who have consistently stepped up to fight, for a variety of reasons, including revenge or loss of family, lands, or honor. Two useful examples are Boudica, who almost drove the Romans out of England, and Tomyris, who routed and killed the Persian king Cyrus the Great. Other women have fought to resist a takeover, becoming national icons in the process—e.g., Lakshmibai, who joined the Indian Rebellion in 1857. As the author suggests, female samurai and Viking-age Scandinavian leaders may have been more prevalent than we’ll ever know. Furthermore, they didn’t just dig earthworks, throw boiling oil over the ramparts, and defend castles against sieges; they also fought in place of absent husbands and joined armies to make money, own property, or get an education. Still others went to fight just because they enjoyed it.

A short book admirable for wide research that you can read in a day, if you don’t get bogged down in the footnotes.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8070-6432-0

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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

1776

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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