A sorry, if Herculean, chapter in Australian history, albeit venal and murderously inept, told by Murgatroyd with verve and...




A shimmering reconstruction of the 1860 Victorian Exploring Expedition, which sought to traverse Australia south to north and needed no clairvoyance to predict its end in disaster.

The age of exploration was ending, but there remained great swaths of land outside the ken of Europeans, and one of these was interior Australia. The Royal Society deemed it time to finance an expedition through the uncharted landscape. Journalist Murgatroyd, however, notes that the expedition, while allowing for feints toward the heroism of exploration and the desire for scientific knowledge, may have been motivated primarily by economic considerations: control of the future telegraph cable and the possibility of overland trade with Southeast Asia. The leader of the expedition, Robert Burke, was a bit of a loose cannon with a reputation for spending “hours lying in his outdoor bathtub, wearing nothing but his police helmet, reading a book, and cursing the mosquitoes.” Without any background in exploration, little regard for the scientists among his company, less for the aborigines he met en route (“he had come to conquer, not to learn”), and an overburden of fruitless supplies—he had packed a goodly supply of dandruff brushes—Burke made numerous logistical blunders in his drive to secure his patron’s wishes, ultimately finding himself with three men pushing his way to the north coast, amid “a continuous mass of mangroves, mosquitoes, mud, and mosquitoes.” He made it, but he wouldn’t make it back, nor would many of his men. Little of practical nature was made of his discoveries, yet he is remembered in Australia as a hero. By Murgatroyd’s lights, he was lucky to make it as far as he did before, inevitably, his luck wore out.

A sorry, if Herculean, chapter in Australian history, albeit venal and murderously inept, told by Murgatroyd with verve and a gathering sense of doom. (Photographs and maps)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2002

ISBN: 0-7679-0828-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002

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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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