A genial journey through history that will leave readers both satiated and ravenous.



A husband and wife—he is French; she, American—move briskly through the history of France with a picnic basket full of information about the connections between history and gastronomy.

The research underlying this account is sturdy and impressive. Hénaut, who has had a long, diverse career in food, and Mitchell (War Studies/King’s Coll. London) take us on a tasty chronological journey, beginning with the Gauls and ending with McDonald’s (France is “the second most profitable market for McDonald’s worldwide”). In a series of brief chapters, most only a few pages long, we learn about a variety of iconic French foods; when, why, and how they emerged; and what their status is today. The authors discuss baguettes, brie, honey, champagne, vegetables, fruit, salt, vinegar, sauces, chocolate, crêpes, and chicken. We see the emergence of table manners and customs, from sitting while eating to wielding a fork. Readers will enjoy learning how certain historical luminaries are associated with the popularity of various foods: Charlemagne and honey, the Black Prince and cassoulet, Louis XIII and chestnuts. The authors also show clearly the effects of warfare on cuisine. The World War I trenches in France featured a sustaining cheese for the beleaguered troops. We learn, too, about the integration of foods originally from external sources—e.g., couscous from Algeria is now a fond French favorite—and we see the effects of improved transportation on the French diet. The authors do not float lightly over the darkness of history. They write bluntly about the egregiousness of colonialism, slavery, warfare, and inhumanity of all sorts. They also work hard to separate fact from legend, which is not always an easy task. The authors chronicle the emergence of certain brands we associate with France—like Gray Poupon mustard—and discuss the lack of popularity of peanut butter.

A genial journey through history that will leave readers both satiated and ravenous.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62097-251-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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



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

Did you like this book?