Worthwhile, if not precisely inspired.




Apparently frustrated by the lingering impression that the ancient Celts were nothing more than barbaric losers of an endless stream of battles with the Roman legions, Ellis attempts to rewrite a thousand years of history (through a.d. 51) from their point of view.

Strangely, though, this revised version doesn’t read much differently from the grammar-school standard. Proceeding country by country, Ellis (Celt and Roman, 1998, etc.) details how the Celts eventually lost to the Romans in Italy, Spain, France, Turkey, North Africa, and Britain. Because almost all the contemporary written sources are Greek or Roman—the Celts, for religious reasons according to the author, didn’t write down their own history until the fourth century (a.d.)—he doesn’t have much new material to work with. Instead, he offers a highly optimistic retelling of a number of old Roman war stories with the Celts cast as heroes and the Romans as oppressors—in other words, a scholarly Asterix comic book, minus the humor. A similarly indulgent anachronism emerges as well, with the Celts constantly being identified trouble for trouble with the modern Irish, while the imperial Romans none-too-subtly take on the complexion of the imperial English. For all that, Ellis makes his point, albeit somewhat fustily. Thinking of the myriad tribes with unpronounceable names who dot Roman histories as the representatives of a single people, which they surely were, fundamentally restructures the way one thinks about the Mediterranean world in the pre-Imperial period. In the end, Ellis manages not only to provide a perfectly adequate history of the Celts but also valuable insight into the Roman conflicts with the Carthaginians, Greeks, and Germanic tribes.

Worthwhile, if not precisely inspired.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7867-0933-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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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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