Mystery fans, history buffs and culture vultures alike will savor this delectable immersion in the mindset of an age.

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VANISHED SMILE

THE MYSTERIOUS THEFT OF MONA LISA

Rigorous study of the circumstances, theories and individuals surrounding the 1911 theft of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous masterpiece.

Since her creation in 1503, Mona Lisa has served as muse, riddle and obsession for scholars, scientists, musicians, writers and art patrons. At the height of Europe’s Belle Époque, she disappeared, seemingly right from under the noses of Louvre guards, plunging the worlds of both high culture and regular society into grief and outrage. For more than two years, rumors, parody and scandalous accusations peppered global headlines, as investigators struggled to piece together the crime and, most crucially, identify the culprit. Citizens of every echelon were suspect, from museum employees to denizens of the art world, including painters, collectors and dealers. Various theories of collaborations and plots swirled around for decades. Scotti (Basilica: The Splendor and the Scandal: Building St. Peter’s, 2006, etc.) masterfully excavates historical truths and brazen speculations, deftly interlacing them into a gracefully crafted account that weds heady prose to shrewd investigative journalism. Her elegant yet bold reconsideration of the most famous art crime in history offers a rare meditation on the notion of motive. Analyzing a work of art that has been anthropomorphized into mythic status for five centuries, Scotti nails it: “When Mona Lisa slipped out of her frames, she seemed to change from a missing masterpiece to a missing person. She came alive in the popular imagination. The public felt her loss as emotionally as an abduction or kidnapping.” More nuanced and focused than Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler’s The Crimes of Paris (2009), Scotti’s inquiry peels away veils of hearsay and sensationalism to reveal a caper as enigmatic as its victim.

Mystery fans, history buffs and culture vultures alike will savor this delectable immersion in the mindset of an age.

Pub Date: April 13, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-307-26580-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2009

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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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