All chroniclers of popular history should be required to study Ackroyd’s writing, his methodology, and the totality of his...

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REVOLUTION

THE BATTLE OF THE BOYNE TO THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO

Ackroyd (Queer City: Gay London from the Romans to the Present Day, 2017, etc.) fans rejoice! The fourth volume of the author’s History of England series has arrived.

As usual, history buffs will find plenty to ponder, and casual readers will enjoy Ackroyd’s storytelling manner as he continues to expose little-known facts of British history—e.g., the Bank of England was originally a subscription effort, and the pound sterling became the monetary standard under Sir Isaac Newton. In the third volume, Ackroyd dealt with the Glorious Revolution of 1688; here, he digs deeply into the financial revolution under William and Mary. The Bank of England, pound, and the stock exchange were initiated to fund the latest war with France. New finances encouraged the lower gentry—those with money and land but no lineage—in their slavery to the false gods of aspiring “middling” classes. The time period also saw a significant agricultural revolution, with an increase in enclosures of large estates; wide-scale farmers looked to new methods of drainage, hedging and rotating crops, putting many peasant farmers out of business and forcing them to the cities. The conversion from wood to coal required miners; the arrival of steam gave birth to mills and factories, which required the small hands of women and children; and the union with Scotland created the largest free-trade area in the world. While the Enlightenment barely touched England’s shores, the Industrial Revolution could only have been born there, where geography, material and mineral riches, and thriving colonial trade all combined to make the perfect spot. The loss of America showed Britain that it was easier to trade with colonies than to rule them. In this dizzying era, there was also time for the birth of the Fourth Estate because Parliament forgot to extend a censorship law, giving rise to the golden age of political journalism. Through it all, the author is a delightful guide.

All chroniclers of popular history should be required to study Ackroyd’s writing, his methodology, and the totality of his treatment of his subjects.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-00364-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

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

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