A thoughtful, intense read that will appeal to fans of the short story format, used here to great effect.

CAFÉ "THE BLUE DANUBE"

A collection of short stories about the Eastern European experience in both the old country and the new.

As the Iron Curtain descended over Eastern Europe in the mid-20th century, a steady flow of emigrants fled to begin new lives in North America. Yakimov (Ashes of Wars, 2011) imagines a series of personal histories for both those who ventured west and those who stayed behind. Part I paints a picture of a modern Canada, a melting pot of ethnicities where there’s tolerance for cultural differences but perhaps not yet true mutual understanding and equality. In an apparently autobiographical story, “Resume of an Engineer,” a female engineer struggles to regain the respect and professional footing she enjoyed in Europe. In the title story, a man, despite having mixed feelings about both the old country and the new, acts as a go-between for fellow immigrants. Part II explores lives that continue to be lived in a changed Europe amid political upheaval, from the forced redistribution of land to the pervasiveness of alcoholism. “Zorah’s cottage,” the defining story here, is a history of a family home in which hope and contentment briefly rekindle, flicker, then die out. Yakimov writes evocatively and with lush expressiveness: “Thick, heavy mist hangs over the flanks of the peak and the mountains, spread out to both sides of it like a white shroud suspended from the sky.” Yet bleakness pervades her narratives. Her characters suffer—both from internal and external causes—and moments of happiness are tempered by troubles that remain unchanged by fortune or geography: family conflict, addiction, loneliness, difference, etc. A recurring theme throughout the stories is the immigrant returning to his or her homeland in the post-Communist era only to find that the reality no longer matches the memory. It’s a familiar motif, but Yakimov (who, like many of her characters, immigrated to Canada as an adult) handles it deftly, managing to avoid the obvious clichés.

A thoughtful, intense read that will appeal to fans of the short story format, used here to great effect.

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-5957-1410-0

Page Count: 180

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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