Fine reading for an ocean cruise.

TRANSATLANTIC

SAMUEL CUNARD, ISAMBARD BRUNEL, AND THE GREAT ATLANTIC STEAMSHIPS

A lively, well-researched history of the race, technological and commercial, to send steam-powered vessels across the pond.

Canadian entrepreneur Samuel Cunard and British engineer Isambard Brunel independently recognized how difficult achieving such a goal would be, writes Fox (Big Leagues, 1994): the technology of steam-driven engines, introduced a generation before, was certainly perfectible and adaptable to the task, but the Atlantic Ocean posed its own challenges in the form of huge storms and swift currents; “the Atlantic to America,” Cunard remarked, “is the worst navigation in the world. The westerly winds prevail very much, and you have ice and fog to contend with.” Still, with the sweeping successes of the railroad and the fortunes it promised, both men labored endlessly, though with different approaches, to find the investors and equipment to make the passage possible. Brunel, who suffered from seasickness and never undertook an ocean voyage until the last year of his long life, introduced brute-force designs, with alloy hulls and screws to do Archimedes proud, that seem intended to cow the sea into submission, and his huge steam vessel, the Great Western, was the first to cross the waters in 1838; Cunard, more concerned with creature comforts and elegance, settled for second place in the race, but built a great fleet of ships that were the finest of their time. One fan of Cunard’s fleet was Mark Twain, who luxuriated aboard ships such as the Batavia on his world tours, but who was quick to shift loyalties when a competitor, the Inman Line, launched the still more elegant City of Chester in 1873. Though synonymous with ocean crossing, the Cunard Line fell into neglect with the death of Samuel and transfer of ownership to his uninterested sons. The company would make a memorable comeback, however, in the early 1900s with two magnificent ships—the Mauretania and her ill-fated sister, Lusitania.

Fine reading for an ocean cruise.

Pub Date: July 4, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-019595-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2003

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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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