Another winner from a consistently engaging author.

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THE MARCHES

A BORDERLAND JOURNEY BETWEEN ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND

The author’s journey along Hadrian’s Wall, which allowed him “to explore and answer questions about Scottish nationalism, Rome, Frontiers, and Empires.”

There are few authors whose books are automatic purchases, whatever the subject, universal or arcane. Stewart (The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq, 2006, etc.) is just such an author, and here, he introduces his father to give us an idea of where he got his drive to fully understand the people around him. He is now a Member of Parliament living in Cumbria, England, while his father, Brian, lives in the family home in Scotland. Stewart’s Scottish heritage is rich and deep; as he notes, his father “and all his father’s father’s ancestors, his father’s mother’s ancestors, and his mother’s father’s ancestors were born, lived and had died, for at least two centuries, in one tiny geographical area.” This book began as a father-son walk to explore the Marches (the borderlands) and find the feelings that might foretell the outcome of the coming Scottish Referendum. His greatest talent is in getting people to speak to him and actually listening to what they say, a skill on full display in his previous books about Afghanistan and Iraq. Stewart saw a similar talent in his father when they lived in Malaya, where Brian—a fascinating character in his own right—worked in the colonial offices; he often left his post to travel around and get to know the indigenous people. The author notes similarities between the marches in Roman times and the tribes of Afghanistan and in Iraq. Taking a second walk without his father, he sought the true heritage of the lost “Middleland.” Throughout, Stewart makes it a joy to learn every tree, flower, and butterfly, to explore where Roman forts stood, and to understand the ancient histories of the region.

Another winner from a consistently engaging author.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-10888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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