Well-balanced, nicely grounded in research and far weightier than the usual royal fluff.




British journalist and historian Gristwood (Arabella: England’s Lost Queen,, 2005, etc.) plunges with admirable clarity into the romantic Tudor arena.

The author restricts her focus to the 30-year relationship between Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, the queen’s closest adviser, friend and suitor. She rarely deviates to give a larger sense of Elizabeth’s political intentions, and then only to delineate complicated genealogy. The story of these courtly lovers holds endless fascination for moderns, who can’t imagine they didn’t sleep together; yet, by Gristwood’s meticulous examination of the evidence, they almost surely did not. Their sense of united destiny was sealed early in the reign of Elizabeth’s sister Mary when both were thrown in the Tower and threatened with beheading. Upon ascending to the throne in 1558, Elizabeth immediately named Robert her Master of Horse, which meant he was in charge of planning her spectacularly popular “progresses” around the country. (It also ensured that they could ride out together daily.) In 1564, she made him first Earl of Leicester. He was an invaluable pawn in Elizabeth’s marriage brokering over the decades, both as a possible husband and as a foil to the unwelcome attention of others. Gristwood spends a goodly bit of time on the suspicious death of his first wife, who fell down the stairs during the period of intensive speculation about his romance with the queen. The scandal kept Elizabeth from marrying Leicester, though she continued to keep him close to her with “savage possessiveness.” He wed others secretly, yet he stood with her in triumph before the English fleet at Tilbury in 1588, the year of his death. “Holding Elizabeth’s hand was always the best, the real way that he could help his country,” Gristwood remarks tenderly of this devoted subject.

Well-balanced, nicely grounded in research and far weightier than the usual royal fluff.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-670-01828-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2007

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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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