Morrison expertly encapsulates the brief, radical trends and movements of this era of “intense sociability.”

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THE REGENCY YEARS

DURING WHICH JANE AUSTEN WRITES, NAPOLEON FIGHTS, BYRON MAKES LOVE, AND BRITAIN BECOMES MODERN

A lively new chronicle brings crisp focus to a significant decade in British history and culture.

Morrison (Queen’s National Scholar/Queen’s Univ., Kingston, Ontario; The English Opium Eater: A Biography of Thomas De Quincey, 2010) declares that there has not been a study on the Regency in three decades, which is extraordinary given that it is a wildly popular era of study, a time when the quintessential elements of modern Britishness emerged. The short period between 1811 and 1820, when an incapacitated George III ceded to his son, the prince of Wales, brought enormous political turmoil: triumph over Napoleon at Waterloo, Irish famine, roiling Scottish politics, and the War of 1812 across the Atlantic. It also witnessed rich innovations in culture, such as the efflorescence of novelists Jane Austen and Walter Scott; the revolutionary work of poets John Keats, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge; and the radical movements against the industrial inequities of Regency society. Morrison proceeds thematically, launching first into the country’s poor systems of crime and punishment, as exemplified by the so-called “Bloody Code,” which meted out the death penalty for more than 200 major and minor crimes, even to children. The author explores the era’s expanding displays of sexual expression within stringent boundaries (“prudery brigades” would triumph during the later Victorian era) as well as underscoring the era’s many sexual anxieties, some of which were symbolized in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Morrison also looks at the period’s fresh inventions, technologies, and ideas to improve the human condition—e.g., the miner’s safety lamp, a prototype for the computer, and the work of the first prison reformer (Elizabeth Fry) and environmental activist (John Clare). During this time, England continued to expand the empire, and internal unrest and economic despair prompted tens of thousands of citizens of Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales to flee to Canada and the United States.

Morrison expertly encapsulates the brief, radical trends and movements of this era of “intense sociability.”

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-24905-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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