For those who prefer to wade in history’s shallows rather than swim in its depths. (Illustrations throughout)




An aristocratic author who claims descent from both women chronicles the decades-long battle for the attention and love of the France’s Henri II between his queen, Catherine de’ Medici, and his lover, Diane de Poitiers.

Princess Michael of Kent seems most charmed with the beautiful, ageless Diane (1499–1566) and almost grudgingly grants pages to the point of view of Catherine (1519–89), whom she describes as short, dark, bitter, and overmatched. Catherine once ordered holes drilled into her floor so she could observe in the room below the lovemaking of Henri and Diane. As the jealous queen watched, writes the author, “a knife must have pierced fat little Catherine’s heart.” Her children with Henri are not described more flatteringly: one had a “bulbous nose,” another a “ratlike little face,” yet another was “misshapen.” This superficial summary of the 16th century tells much about clothing and gardens, jewelry and architecture, ceremonies and pageants, faces and fashions. Princess Michael praises fine faces and firm bodies, suggesting that women today might benefit from sleek Diane’s beauty regimen. (Those who have her income could especially benefit, one would think.) The author begins with the marriage of 14-year-old Catherine to 14-year-old Henri, who at the time was not directly in line for the throne. (Convenient deaths subsequently made him king.) It ends with the monarch’s death, Catherine’s revenge (she promptly banished Diane from court), and Diane’s subsequent death at age 66. Among the loving, uncritical descriptions of royal excess in Renaissance France are some stories about the ongoing wars with Charles V, the French obsession with Italy and alliances with the Turks, the rivalry between Henri’s father François I and England’s Henry VIII, the burning of heretics, and Henri’s death after receiving a grotesque head wound in a tournament.

For those who prefer to wade in history’s shallows rather than swim in its depths. (Illustrations throughout)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-5104-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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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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