BRITAIN 1900-1990

A readable volume in the new Penguin History of Britain series (see also Mark Kishlansky, A Monarchy Transformed: Britain 16031714, p. 200) that not only brings British history up to date by incorporating the results of recent scholarship, but brings it up to the present as well. Recent history is a problem for historians because the passions of modern political and religious conflict have yet to subside. Yet Clarke (Modern British History/Cambridge Univ.) succeeds in handling the highly controversial regime of Margaret Thatcher with the same detached, judicious tone that he uses to explain complicated debates over tariff policy in the early years of the century. Clarke has mastered the art of the survey, covering as many topics as possible without losing track of the central story. High politics provides the basic narrative, but the reader is often reminded of the importance to the average person of diet, religion, death, literature, alcohol, sports, television, and the division of labor within the household. One might wish for a little more passion in the narrative, and a little more attention to the views of outsiders: working-class victims of mass unemployment or government means-testing, for instance, or lower-middle-class victims of selective education or snobbery. But Clarke's moderate tone complements his centrist political views and reinforces his view of 20th-century British history as a success story. There's no hand-wringing here about the empire's decline. The people of Britain, in his view, are now better off in nearly every respect than they were in 1900. With a higher standard of living and longer life expectancy, they are now free of the moral taint of holding an empire and prepared to join a prosperous and peaceful Europe. If all of Britain's wars were not ``good'' wars like WW II, their record is nonetheless more defensible than that of most other countries. If there is an air of self-satisfaction in this volume, Clarke provides ample justification for it.

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-713-99071-6

Page Count: 454

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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