Fans of sturdy, traditional history will appreciate this comprehensive survey.



A dense narrative account of Great Britain’s social and political conflicts in the decades before World War I.

“Swagger was the predominant style of the period,” asserts journalist and popular historian Heffer in his first book to be published in the U.S. He notes that the affluence and complacency of the English upper classes, traditionally viewed as defining features of the late Victorian and Edwardian years, covered up working-class, feminist, and Irish discontents. The Third Reform Act of 1884 went a long way toward extending the franchise, and the House of Lords reluctantly assented to it, but the Lords’ fierce resistance to the “People’s Budget” of 1909 provoked a constitutional crisis that nearly resulted in the abolition of the aristocratic upper chamber. Heffer covers this struggle as well as the parliamentary battles over Irish home rule and the government’s maladroit handling of such colonial imbroglios as the Boer War and the Siege of Khartoum. The author’s level of detail will daunt casual readers, but those who like their history long and leisurely will enjoy his approach. He offers similarly in-depth treatments of various juicy scandals among the Marlborough House Set, the louche circle formed around the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), and he shows how they were examples of the triviality and sexual hypocrisy of Britain’s upper classes. Queen Victoria fares no better, sketched as a dour reactionary who detested the liberal governments she was forced to collaborate with as a constitutional monarch. Heffer comes across as middle-of-the-road politically and socially: He deplores Britain’s economic inequality and imperial injustices, but he depicts the strikes of trade union activists and the protests of militant suffragettes as provocative and needlessly divisive. Judicious but brief passages about the period’s culture, including exegeses of such paradigmatic works as John Galsworthy’s play Strife and H.G Wells’ novel Ann Veronica, somewhat leaven the heavy overall focus on political maneuvers.

Fans of sturdy, traditional history will appreciate this comprehensive survey.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64313-670-7

Page Count: 912

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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