A fluid history lesson from an always engaging guide.


BELONGING: 1492-1900

The second volume of the award-winning author and documentary producer’s history of the Jews.

The narrative moves via elegant minibiographies as Jews expelled from Spain and elsewhere struggled with dispersion and assimilation. Schama (History and Art History/Columbia Univ.; The Face of Britain: The Nation Through Its Portraits, 2015, etc.) pursues the uneasy story of the Jews’ dispersion across the globe after 1492, occasionally finding a haven, such as in Amsterdam or even China, but frequently suffering persistent persecution. In his engaging, stylistic prose, the author proceeds chronologically and delves into fascinating personal stories that reveal the Jewish experience beyond its significant religious figures—e.g., that of the “little warrior prince” David Ha-Reuveni, the “ambassador from the dominion of the Lost Tribes” of Israel who “fetched up in Venice” in 1523 and convinced many Jewish notables of Italy, who were traumatized by the expulsions from Spain and Portugal, that he “was the bearer of something ancient, immemorial, thrown, by God’s design, into modern time.” Facing forced conversions, the Jews of Spain and Portugal headed to the safety of Ferrara in the Po Valley or farther into the Ottoman realm of Suleyman the Magnificent, where they could practice their faith and livelihoods with some dignity. Two “New Christian” sisters, who happened to be among the richest women of Europe, Beatriz de Luna, the widow of a spice king, and Brianda, moved from Lisbon and resettled comfortably in Antwerp only to become embroiled in the perilous machinations of “cultural pluralists.” Other characters Schama vivifies throughout this wide-ranging book include Leone de Sommi Portaleone, the “first unapologetically Jewish showman” of Mantua; the rich immigrant Jews of Galata; cabalist teachers in Safed, Palestine; Jews thriving in the liberal Dutch Republic, some of whom were painted by Rembrandt; and the “citizen Jews” of revolutionary France. While the princes of Europe excoriated the Jews, they also needed them, especially to underwrite their military exploits and luxurious tastes. The modernity of the 19th century would bring both pogroms and Leon Pinsker’s clarion call of “Auto-Emancipation.”

A fluid history lesson from an always engaging guide.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-233957-7

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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