An extraordinary real-life adventure of men battling the elements and themselves, told with ice-cold precision.



The first American expedition to the North Pole provides a chilling twist on the true-crime genre in this historical detective story by novelist Parry (That Fateful Lighting, not reviewed).

In 1871, the Grant administration hoped that a US polar expedition could discover what 134 European-mounted voyages between 1496 and 1857 could not: the fabled Northwest Passage. The enterprise, the administration felt, would boost national unity, the whaling industry, and Far East trade. The expedition leader, Captain Charles Francis Hall, had few equals for cartographic skill, vigor, courage, Arctic survival skills, and willingness to learn from Inuit guides. But Hall, a landlubber with no experience commanding a vessel, did not have the self-assurance to face down challenges to his authority, especially from the German head of the expedition’s scientific corps. A foolhardy decision was made to abandon the Polaris, and 19 men were separated from the rest for nearly seven months on an overloaded whaler. When the expedition concluded nearly two years later, its crew described a fiasco featuring an alcoholic sailing master, internal dissension, and the more elemental terrors of frostbite, storms, whiteout conditions, starvation, and fear of cannibalism. Amazingly, the only casualty was Hall, who died early on under suspicious circumstances. Parry, a retired surgeon, expertly assesses the medical evidence supporting the possibility of murder, points to the most likely suspect aboard, and details the whitewash by a subsequent naval inquiry. Drawing on government records, survivor accounts, and his own knowledge of the Arctic, he delivers a harrowing narrative enlivened by prose that conveys the full force of nature bearing down on man in sentences such as the one describing Hall’s burial, “dwarfed by the immense presence of the sky, the unending whiteness, and the threatening rise of a shale bluff that towered before them like a crouching beast.”

An extraordinary real-life adventure of men battling the elements and themselves, told with ice-cold precision.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2001

ISBN: 0-345-43925-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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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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