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

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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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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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