Plenty of good material, but this unfocused text will be of interest mainly to scholars.

VICTORIAN BLOOMSBURY

A portrait of London’s famous intellectual neighborhood before Virginia Woolf and her friends moved in.

“It was in the nineteenth century that [Bloomsbury] acquired its distinctive, important, and above all progressive role in the life of both London and the nation,” writes Ashton (English Language and Literature/University College London; 142 Strand: A Radical Address in Victorian London, 2006, etc.), a good point that she makes as repetitiously as she does every other point in this informative but dull text. Although the British Museum had been located in Bloomsbury since it opened in 1759, the story of Victorian Bloomsbury begins in the 1820s with the construction of a grand new building for the museum and with the establishment of the University of London, designed to offer higher education at prices more affordable than those of Oxford and Cambridge and without the religious test that prevented non-Anglicans from attending Oxbridge. Now known as University College London, the school was attacked from the start as a hotbed of godless radicalism. Bloomsbury was indeed an important center for Victorian liberalism, home to institutions designed to educate women, members of the working class and young children, as well as to nonconformist religious institutions and one of the city’s first settlement houses. The author’s claim that “from the eighteenth century onwards Bloomsbury was central to medical progress” seems more dubious, something of an excuse to include a history of the University College Hospital. Yes, the hospital was the site of the first use of anesthesia in Europe, but there is more here about the ins and outs of its personnel than seems necessary. Victorian Bloomsbury is a mildly specious catchall that muddies the particulars of the book one senses Ashton really wanted to write: a history of University College London.

Plenty of good material, but this unfocused text will be of interest mainly to scholars.

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-300-15447-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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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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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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