Shunning caricatures of American revolutionary patriots as heroes and British loyalists as traitors or cowards, novelist McFarland (Seasons of Fear, 1983, etc.) shows in this absorbing narrative of three lives that the prerevolutionary crisis in Boston in 1774—75 had all the complexity and tragedy of a true civil war, and neither side had any monopoly on courage, virtue, or villainy. In the 1770s, Thomas Hutchinson, Benjamin Franklin, and Josiah Quincy seemingly had much in common: All were prominent native Bostonians (although Franklin had spent his adult life in Philadelphia), all were devoted to America, and, at least at the outset, all were committed to the British Empire and its tradition of law, property rights, and individual liberty. Quincy, a fervent and tubercular patriot who died as the crisis turned into outright war, worked for independence from the outset but represented the British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre and initially deplored the patriot mobs. Hutchinson, Massachusetts’s last royal governor, emerges in McFarland’s account as a moderate and intelligent conservative. But, out of touch with Americans’ national aspirations and convinced that the better course was cooperation with Britain, he was violently driven out of Boston by mobs and watched helplessly from his London exile as the crisis erupted into war. Franklin was a previous advocate of empire whose son was royal governor of New Jersey and who had spent ten years in London as an agent for several of the colonies. He became embroiled in scandal when he stole and clandestinely circulated several letters of Hutchinson’s that showed the royal governor’s callousness toward America. Humiliated before the Privy Council in a speech by the solicitor general and stripped of his perquisites, Franklin was to sever his last ties with Britain and become one of the founders of the United States. A compelling narrative that reads like excellent fiction, but also a reminder of the suffering and moral dilemmas that Americans faced during the American Revolution.

Pub Date: April 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8133-3440-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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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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