O’Keeffe offers no revelations for Waterloo buffs, but his book is a highly readable, richly anecdotal retelling of the...



The story of the physical aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo, where 200,000 men fought intensely for 10 hours on a bloody battlefield of 5 square miles, leaving more than 40,000 bodies piled in heaps and forcing Napoleon’s abdication as emperor of France.

O’Keeffe (A Genius for Failure: The Life of Benjamin Robert Haydon, 2009, etc.) draws nicely on letters, memoirs, and other documents to create this vivid account of the immediate days after the historic clash between French, Anglo-allied, and Prussian forces, from the “landscape of carnage” to the occupation of Paris and Napoleon’s exile to Saint Helena. Published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Waterloo (June 18, 1815), the book’s grim recounting begins with the congested battlefield, which has been thoroughly documented before: littered with paper (letters, playing cards, prayer books, and much more), the drums of French drummers, and the naked bodies of soldiers stripped completely of their clothing by local peasants and soldiers. Survivors begged to be shot dead. Wheels crushed bodies into “a mass of blood, flesh and clothes.” Predators extracted the teeth of dead soldiers (preferably young), to be sold to London dentists, who offered immaculate “Waterloo teeth” to the fashionable and toothless rich. Tourists (including Walter Scott and Lord Byron) gathered swords, belt buckles, and a host of other mementos. The author describes the eagerly awaited news of Napoleon’s defeat as it arrived by mail coach in England, the many ensuing celebrations there, and the stripping of the Louvre. Thousands sailed out to see Napoleon on the ship where he was kept before his final exile. Some paid his laundress for the chance to wear his shirts.

O’Keeffe offers no revelations for Waterloo buffs, but his book is a highly readable, richly anecdotal retelling of the battle’s devastating results.

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4683-1130-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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