The lives of these English eccentrics turn a potentially dense chronicle into a delightfully surprising narrative.




A tangled dynastic compilation of a famous Kent house segues into a deft trek through English royal history.

Best known as the mansion in which poet Vita Sackville-West grew up and on which her friend and lover Virginia Woolf based Orlando (1928), the house at Knole has been the nearly continuous domicile of the Sackville earls, dukes and barons since the Elizabethan statesman Thomas Sackville, the first Earl of Dorset, acquired it in 1604. Like other nearby estates such as Holdenby, Burghley and Theobalds, Knole, originally a medieval manor house, was refurbished by Sackville as a show palace befitting his years of loyal service, ultimately as Lord Treasurer. Subsequently, the house fell to his son and wife, Anne Clifford, whose diaries during her long life and troubled marriage offer a marvelous window to the splendor of the Jacobean court, aristocratic rounds, roiling hereditary landowning disputes and the sense of pall and isolation the house often rendered over its inhabitants, particularly the women. The author spryly navigates the English Civil War, when Knole was sequestrated by the Parliamentarians because of resident Edward Sackville’s royalist proclivities. The Restoration coincided with Knole’s glorious resurrection by Charles, the sixth Earl of Dorset, high-living man of letters and friend to the poets. The Sackvilles always “hovered on the periphery of power, participating—just—in the making of history,” writes the author, who actually lives in the house, now owned by the National Trust. His depiction of Vita’s mother, Victoria, mistress of Lionel Sackville-West, makes an especially cracking story.

The lives of these English eccentrics turn a potentially dense chronicle into a delightfully surprising narrative.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8027-7901-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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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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