A compelling (if a touch overly detailed) look at Florence, its architecture, and one of its artisans.




Novelist King (Ex Libris, not reviewed) takes us to Florence, half a millennium ago.

It took over a century to build Santa Maria del Fiore, the cathedral of Florence. In 1418, builders realized that constructing the cathedral’s dome was a bit of a challenge, and they asked for proposals. A goldsmith and clockmaker called Filippo Brunelleschi submitted the winning plan and spent almost 30 years vaulting the dome. Here, King tells the tale of the genius Brunelleschi and sheds light on the travails of life in 15th-century Italy, to boot. The cathedral dome contest was not the first time Brunelleschi had competed to public acclaim: when he was 24—just three years after he was designated a master goldsmith—he offered a design for the bronze doors to the baptistery of San Giovanni that was very nearly accepted. Although his doors never hung on the baptistery, he had been thrust into the limelight at a young age. In addition to following the colorful career of Brunelleschi, the author treats us to captivating descriptions of the weekly religious feasts at which Florentines gorged, the lavish gold and silk habits of the monks and priests who paraded through the streets, and the bells that chimed throughout the city. We read about the painstaking brick-laying techniques that Florentine builders used, the professional rivalries that occasionally dragged master craftsmen to the level of soap opera, and the religious and architectural reasons that Gothic builders “sought to fill their churches with plenty of light.” And we learn everything we ever wanted to know—probably more—about the creation of a cathedral dome, from cupolas to Carrara marble.

A compelling (if a touch overly detailed) look at Florence, its architecture, and one of its artisans.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8027-1366-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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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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