The story is as compelling as it is fantastic—page-turning history of one of the most important eras of Western civilization.



The husband-and-wife historian team once again exhibit their talent for enlivening British history.

This time, the Adkins writing team (Jane Austen’s England, 2013, etc.) looks at the 1779-1783 siege of Gibraltar, which, at three years and seven months, was the longest siege in British history and played a significant role in the success of the American Revolution. As America’s ally, France declared war on England and enlisted Spain to join them in attempting an invasion of Britain. After that plan failed, the next step was to take the most strategic spot in the Mediterranean, Gibraltar. Protecting the rock and rebuffing convoy attempts to resupply it took thousands of men, ships, and armaments desperately needed across the Atlantic. Many of those convoys never made it to Gibraltar, intercepted by Spanish or French fleets. As English Adm. George Darby initiated a relief convoy, it enabled the French commander to slip away and arrive in time to be the deciding factor in the capitulation at Yorktown. Many readers will wonder why this episode hasn’t been made into a movie, with all the heroics of soldiers, civilians, and, especially, families. Thankfully, the authors had a vast trove of letters and diaries of those who lived through the siege, and they use them to great effect. The most telling is that of the wife of Gibraltar’s chief engineer, William Green. She describes what might be called the phony war, as Spain tried to starve out the garrison and engaged in near-incessant bombardment. They paused only briefly each afternoon, for siesta. The inhabitants of Gibraltar fought hunger, typhus, and smallpox in addition to abject fear. During the seemingly interminable siege, both sides came up with new and deadly inventions: English exploding shells, a forerunner of shrapnel, gunboats, and French floating batteries. Equally notable is one of the most famous sorties in military history.

The story is as compelling as it is fantastic—page-turning history of one of the most important eras of Western civilization.

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2162-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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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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