This is familiar ground all the way, and Schama brings little new scholarship to it. Still, he is a lucid and trustworthy...

A HISTORY OF BRITAIN

VOL. II (1603-1776): THE WARS OF THE BRITISH

The spry second installment of Schama’s projected three-volume history of the Sceptred Isle (the first volume not reviewed).

Though published as a big-ticket trade item by a resolutely hip press, Schama’s is an old-fashioned history, learned and literate, uninfluenced by prevailing notions of political correctness or historiographic theory; this is all about great men who dared to make a name for themselves and their nation, not about social tendencies or voiceless oppressed classes. Schama’s characters are thus well-known to readers even casually familiar with British history—oddballs such as Samuel Pepys, rebels such as William Blake and Daniel Defoe, philosophers such as John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, and above all, sword-wielding reformers and warriors such as Oliver Cromwell and Lord Cornwallis. Collectively, though each in his own way, these men advanced their nation from a relative backwater of northwestern Europe to the status of world power, though not without cost over a tumultuous brace of centuries; as Schama (Rembrandt’s Eyes, 1999, etc.) notes, “Britain killed England. And it left Scotland and Ireland hemorrhaging in the field.” In the process, Britain remade whole nations—by, for instance, transplanting more than 100,000 Scots, Welsh, and English immigrants into Northern Ireland, which would be the source of centuries of trouble that “utterly dwarfed the related ‘planting’ on the Atlantic seaboard of North America.” It enacted a program of religious as well as ethnic cleansing, destroying the Catholic Church and other dissident sects. And it entrusted with sovereign power feckless kings such as Charles II and George III, who, despite severe limitations, oversaw Great Britain's imperial growth—a growth fueled by Europe’s “craze for hot, powerfully caffeinated beverages” as much as any formal plan.

This is familiar ground all the way, and Schama brings little new scholarship to it. Still, he is a lucid and trustworthy guide to the British past, and readers new to the subject will find this an attractive introduction and overview.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7868-6752-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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