Though this installment doesn’t quite match the first four in capturing our imaginations, Ackroyd, as always, is well worth...




The fifth volume in the acclaimed author’s history of England.

Ackroyd’s (Revolution: The History of England from the Battle of the Boyne to the Battle of Waterloo, 2017, etc.) observation that nobody can live in an age outside their own because the smells, sights, and reality would be unendurable will awaken many readers to our similarities and differences. The 19th century saw something new springing up nearly every day. From the days of Wellington and Peel, Corn Laws, Catholic crisis, and bad harvests through Gladstone, Disraeli, and the Industrial Revolution, the only thing that was static was the plight of the poor, who never rose like the strengthening middling class. Likewise, the author cleverly points to the Irish problem as an English problem. They owned the land, ruled, administered, and never went away. The century saw few wars from Waterloo until the 1848 revolutions, which were described by Lewis Namier as a “turning point at which history failed to turn.” From that time onward, each great power was at war at one time or another. England had fewer wars but was constantly warding off threats to the empire. Happily avoiding quotidian life, military history, or too much economics, Ackroyd describes the character of the age perfectly. England was banker to the world; God and duty were two of the most important elements of the period; prose was the language of power; and politics were not a question of policy but of personality. “Cant was the moral cloud which covered the nineteenth century,” writes the author. “It was part of the age of respectability….Cant encompassed the politician who smiled while remaining a villain; cant was the language of the moral reformer who closes public houses on Sunday….Never has a period been so concerned to give the right impression.”

Though this installment doesn’t quite match the first four in capturing our imaginations, Ackroyd, as always, is well worth the read.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-00365-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

Did you like this book?