A great spy novel—except that it’s all true.

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THE WATCHERS

A SECRET HISTORY OF THE REIGN OF ELIZABETH I

Alford (History/Cambridge Univ.; Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I, 2008, etc.) is an expert on all things Elizabethan, and his intimate knowledge of the queen’s ministers and the period’s political history guarantees the accuracy and thoroughness of this rip-roaring story.

The religious makeup of 16th-century England had bounced from Protestant to Catholic and back again with each succeeding offspring of Henry VIII. Her country’s future relied upon Elizabeth’s strength. The lack of a successor and England’s isolation and defenselessness produced obsessive vigilance on the part of Lord High Treasurer William Cecil (Baron Burghley) and Principal Secretary Francis Walsingham. As the author notes, the more obsessive the vigilance, the greater the danger perceived. That there was a real threat in the 1580s is without doubt. Philip II of Spain, Mary Queen of Scots, exiled Catholics and priests in France all worked unceasingly to usurp, overthrow or murder Elizabeth. Mary, first cousin to the queen, had the strongest claim to the succession. Her Catholic supporters in France plotted unceasingly during her two-decade imprisonment. The threat from Philip took some years to materialize, but England’s interference in the struggle of the Low Countries against Spanish rule pushed him to join the Pope’s Great Enterprise against Elizabeth. The third threat, posed by priests trained at the English seminary in France, was more insidious. Over the course of 40 years, Elizabeth’s hounds identified nearly 500 priests active in England; 116 of those met the gruesome fate of being hanged or drawn and quartered. Tracing the devious machinations of rebels and intelligence agents alike, Alford makes brilliant use of the intercepted letters, illegal publications and incendiary pamphlets found in the Elizabethan archives.

A great spy novel—except that it’s all true.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60819-009-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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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