Sympathetic to the protagonists’ plight, Sackville-West hones a well-crafted narrative of intrigue, betrayal and greed.



An aristocratic family’s scandalous past.

Sackville-West (Inheritance, 2010, etc.) now lives at Knole, a “stately home” of 365 rooms, 52 staircases and seven courtyards on a vast tract in Kent, England. The property, in his family for 400 years, looms darkly in this sad, sordid family saga, more King Lear than Downton Abbey. The story begins in 1852, when Lord Lionel Sackville-West met Josefa Duran, a Spanish dancer known as Pepita; they embarked on an affair that lasted 20 years and produced five children. To avoid embarrassment to himself and Pepita, Lionel occasionally referred to Pepita as his wife, although she was already married, estranged from her Spanish husband. Lionel installed them in the south of France, visited rarely and struggled to support them. After Pepita died in 1871, he arranged for the children’s care, sending money when he had it. As the fifth son of the fifth Earl De La Warr, Lionel had entered the diplomatic service, a respectable but not remunerative career. His brothers stood to inherit considerably from their father; Lionel did not. But in 1888, a fluke of circumstances and deaths found Lionel the master of Knole. Immediately, the children who had been affectionate in their youth grew rancorous, intent on proving their legitimacy and right to the Sackville name and fortune. Victoria, the eldest daughter, who served as Lionel’s hostess and protector, became the focus of their wrath, and the author gleans much evidence from her diaries and letters and from a biography of Pepita by Victoria’s literary daughter, Vita. Protracted lawsuits eventually found in Lionel’s favor; one son eked out a living in Africa; another killed himself; a daughter died in penury. Victoria, replaced by her husband’s mistress, was eventually ousted from Knole.

Sympathetic to the protagonists’ plight, Sackville-West hones a well-crafted narrative of intrigue, betrayal and greed.

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63286-043-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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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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