The authors shine a light on a dark corner of the struggle for American independence.

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THE SPIRIT OF '74

HOW THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION BEGAN

A well-conceived work of popular history that fills a gap in the chronology of the American Revolution.

The period between the Boston Tea Party, which took place at the end of 1773, and the first revolutionary battles at Lexington and Concord, which took place in April 1775, is unknown to most general readers and often overlooked even by professional historians’ accounts of the Revolutionary War. Yet they were crucial, as Ray (Founding Myths, 2014, etc.) and Marie Raphael (A Boy from Ireland, 2007, etc.) ably document. Tea, write the authors, was but one of five goods on which Parliament levied taxes, but while it backed off on the other four, it held to tea as a more-than-symbolic gesture of imperial power that “became the symbol of its oppressive policies.” While Parliament debated what to do about the upstarts in Boston, colonial committees and militias formed in more or less open rebellion. More important, during the 16-month gap, the rebels formed the basis of independent government. As the Raphaels write, when their rejection of British suzerainty placed the people of Worcester County, Massachusetts, in a so-called state of nature or mere anarchy, they stepped up and figured out how to rule themselves: “That the Worcester County Convention presumed it could appoint men to government posts, although it possessed no legal claim to do so, was in and of itself revolutionary.” The period also revealed divisions in Colonial society. In Massachusetts, loyalists tended to cluster near fall-line cities while revolutionaries abounded in the western counties. Radicals and moderates argued about what to do with the newly formed militias even as formerly restrained British garrisons began to itch with punitive desire and Colonial governor Thomas Gage came to regard the colonists “for what they now were, near enemies”—and enemies who were better prepared for war than the British authorities imagined.

The authors shine a light on a dark corner of the struggle for American independence.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62097-126-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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