CONSTANTINOPLE

CITY OF THE WORLD'S DESIRE, 1453-1924

The cultural history of a fascinating city. Constantinople has long occupied a special place in the imagination of the West, viewed as a city of immense wealth, power, mystery, and decadence. Mansel (Sultans in Splendor: The Last Years of the Ottoman World, not reviewed) offers an intimate and exhaustive account intimately tied to the rise of the Ottoman dynasty, picking up the city's history after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. He convincingly argues that the ancient city cannot be understood without reference to the Ottomans and that the interaction of the two produced ``the only capital to function at every level: Political, military, naval, religious (both Muslim and Christian), economic, cultural, and gastronomic.'' Now known as Istanbul, it has been called the New Rome as well as the New Jerusalem; the ``City of Saints''; the ``House of State''; the ``Gate of Happiness''; the ``Eye of the World''; and ``Refuge of the Universe.'' Situated in a spot making it a natural bridge between East and West, it has attracted merchants, mercenaries, and missionaries, with all the attendant consequences. Mansel sees the city—because of its unique site and its long history as the capital of two great empires—as ``a natural object of desire,'' a place capable of generating extreme, even fantastic, actions in its inhabitants. In his treatment, Constantinople emerges as a worthy challenger to Venice and Paris, the cities most often seen as offering unique mixtures of style and substance. And like those cities, Constantinople is a feast for the senses, especially the eyes. Lavish illustrations and Mansel's colorful descriptions attempt to bring some of the voluptuousness of life in the city to the reader. Thoroughly documented, this is a splendid introduction to one of the first truly cosmopolitan cities.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-312-14574-8

Page Count: 544

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more