A culturally sensitive portrayal of a troubled—and potentially troublesome—region.




A lucid exploration of profound divisions in Saudi society, many of which are of immediate concern to the West.

Dismissing an American editor’s characterization of his subjects as a “bunch of camel jockeys,” Arabia expert Lacey (Great Tales from English History, Volume 3, 2006, etc.) accords great respect to the House of Saud, which knitted three distinct nations into modern Saudi Arabia. Yet, the author speculates, without Saud’s rise, “the horrors of 9/11 would never have been inflicted on the United States, since Osama Bin Laden’s poisonous hostility to the west was a brew that only Saudi Arabia could have concocted.” Lacey patiently explains the rise of Wahhabist orthodoxy and its puritanical view of the world, in which so slight an infraction as enjoying music would earn a Muslim a spot in the inferno. That orthodoxy, ultimately, underlies the jihadist aspirations of bin Laden and al-Qaeda, who want ensure that such infractions are properly punished on Earth. The Saudi royal family—of whom bin Laden is a distant cousin—does not go uncriticized by the Wahhabist mullahs. Provocatively, Lacey explores the Sunni-Shia split in Saudi society, noting that the despised Shia minority was quick to come to the nation’s defense during the Gulf War, even as the Wahhabists decried the presence of American troops on Saudi soil and encouraged resistance. The author also describes the assassination of Shia saint Ali as “one of the earliest victims of Islamic terrorism”—a statement that should cause a stir in Riyadh. What should win him respect there, however, is his evenhanded treatment of Saudi efforts to introduce modernizing reforms and to curb homegrown terrorism in the wake of 9/11, including the rehabilitation of jihadists released from Guantánamo. Lacey concludes by noting that Saudi Arabia, once believed to be a steadfast ally of the West, has been forging links with new partners—especially China—that will change geopolitics in the years to come.

A culturally sensitive portrayal of a troubled—and potentially troublesome—region.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02118-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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...


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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