Capably transforms one of the bleakest episodes in modern history into an instructive account of events that have lasting...

THE KILLING OF MAJOR DENIS MAHON

A MYSTERY OF OLD IRELAND

Journalist Duffy (The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Saved 1,200 Jews, and Built a Village in the Forest, 2003) recounts the story of the “Strokestown Massacre,” offering a vivid account of the Great Irish Famine along the way.

Murdered by starving tenants as he drove a horse-drawn carriage through his blighted property, Major Denis Mahon soon became both an international symbol of landlord cruelty and an example of the fate that could befall those who grossly mishandled estates in a crisis. Duffy ably demonstrates how a series of debacles, both inside and outside Mahon’s home county of Roscommon, led to the murder. The repeated failures of the all-important potato crop added a greater strain to the relationship between poor Catholics and the wealthy, land-owning Anglo-Irish who governed them. Further, a breakdown in governmental aid and a lack of decisive action in Parliament contributed to this climate of hatred. Duffy asserts that Mahon initially put forth a well-meaning effort to help his troubled tenants, paying for many of them to emigrate to America aboard what would soon be known as “coffin ships.” The acrimony between the tenants and their wealthy Protestant landlords was hardly mollified by the local Catholic clergy, who sided squarely with the ill-fed masses who formed the most desperate elements of their faithful. For her part, Queen Victoria took the murder as further proof that the starving Irish were unworthy of her aid, and her deplorable diary entries reflect the most baffling kind of governmental malfeasance—“really they are terrible people…it is a constant source of anxiety & annoyance.” Many readers will be distressed by the accounts of such large-scale neglect of so many citizens as they were turned out of their shacks for nonpayment of rent. While Duffy occasionally goes into excessive detail about the particulars of the trial, his exploration into this devastating period in Irish history is a scrupulously researched and well-presented record.

Capably transforms one of the bleakest episodes in modern history into an instructive account of events that have lasting repercussions to this day.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-084050-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

1776

A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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