A page-turner that delivers an eye-opening history of the American Revolution from a different perspective, as well as...




A history of how the American revolt of 1775 evolved into a worldwide conflict.

“Everyone knows that the first shot of this war was fired between soldiers on Lexington Common in 1775,” writes highly acclaimed British naval historian Willis (In the Hour of Victory: The Royal Navy at War in the Age of Nelson, 2014, etc.), “but…the last was fired between warships at the battle of Cuddalore in the Bay of Bengal on 20 June 1783.” The author takes nearly 500 pages to describe all this, but that includes many little-known distant campaigns, and readers can expect a thoroughly satisfying experience. Willis emphasizes that the Continental Congress’ October 1775 resolution to create a navy marked the point of no return. Raising a militia was an ancient colonial right, so George Washington’s army was technically legal. Raising a navy, however, was unprecedented. The resulting ragtag fleet never challenged the British Royal Navy, but showing the flag in foreign ports proclaimed that the rebellion was a going concern—and needed help. These ships—and those of 12 naval colonies—moved troops and equipment and harassed the enemy, but privateers inflicted the greatest pain, capturing thousands of merchant vessels during the years of the conflict. It was France and its allies that turned the tide, and Willis delivers an expert account of how they made independence a reality, but at considerable sacrifice. Spectacularly incompetent in America, Britain performed well almost everywhere else. Peace left Britain minus the American Colonies but with impressive gains in India, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean. France, on the other hand, was bankrupt.

A page-turner that delivers an eye-opening history of the American Revolution from a different perspective, as well as surprising details of what Willis maintains was the greatest war of the age of sail.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-393-23992-8

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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