THE ROOSEVELTS

AN AMERICAN SAGA

A dubious new examination of the Roosevelt clan by the team that has previously delved into the lives of several American dynasties. Any new book about the Roosevelts carries a big burden. There have, of course, been many books already about the family, many of which are termed ``excellent'' and ``brilliant'' by Collier and Horowitz. The authors have their own reputation to reckon with, too. Coauthors of previous dynasty books (The Kennedys, not reviewed, etc.), they have been accused, by turns, of superficiality, sensationalism, and inducing boredom. The Roosevelt book is rarely boring and certainly not sensationalistic. It is, however, troubling in another way: The authors place more emphasis than previous biographers on the conflict between the two branches of the Roosevelt family. Writing in the singular voice, they explain: ``My own inclination has been to try to treat the story of the Oyster Bay [Teddy and Eleanor] and Hyde Park [Franklin] branches, usually seen as two casually related stories, as one complex dynastic drama. There is a familial civil war at the heart of the story....'' Previous Roosevelt chroniclers, while sometimes mentioning the ``civil war,'' have refrained from building a book around it. Collier and Horowitz have done just that. Accordingly, they seize every opportunity to accent interbranch conflict, dwelling, for example, on the subtle and not-so-subtle slights traded among relatives at the 1905 wedding of Eleanor and Franklin, exchanges that overshadowed the ceremony itself. More than 80 years later, according to the authors, the internecine strife finally lessened as the two branches more or less reconciled at a reunion. At times entertaining, this family-conflict approach (based largely on derivative, sometimes skimpy sources) requires some liberal interpretations of events for the sake of dramatic continuity. Readers unfamiliar with the available Roosevelt literature may find this approach informative and fun. Others—well-read in Roosevelt literature and not titillated by the bickering—will find it irritating.

Pub Date: June 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-671-65225-7

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1994

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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