Had done more to illuminate the humanity of these heroes, his history would have had both merit and appeal. As it is, it is...




The saga of a rebellious priest and a black hero-soldier who both played leading roles in the drama of emancipation during the Civil War in New Orleans.

Ochs (Desegregating the Altar, not reviewed) a teacher and history department chairman at Georgetown Preparatory School, paints a densely ironic picture of the destiny of these two men whose lives cross as one is burying the other. Andre Cailloux, a captain in the Union Army, became the first black war hero when he led a hopeless charge against the Confederate forces at Port Hudson, Louisiana. Maistre, a priest whose shadowy past included mixed tales of sex and money, was nonetheless the sole Catholic voice of abolition in New Orleans in 1863. The French born-Maistre had developed a special ministry for black Catholics, and he defied his own bishop’s orders in agreeing to preside over Cailloux' funeral. But whatever large (and perhaps even the small) points Ochs is attempting to make about the Catholic clergy of the day or the trials of free blacks (such as Cailloux) who fought in the Civil War tend to get lost in a heavily footnoted and endlessly detailed swamp. The most basic necessity of such a story (i.e., a clear and vivid picture of Cailloux and Maistre) never emerges from the thicket of Ochs’s tangled narrative, leaving altogether too many unanswered questions about their lives. Indeed, it's never entirely clear if the two men ever met while Cailloux was still alive. Ochs writes that `by sharing the collective stories of our past we come to a better understanding of our common humanity and of our identity, both individual and societal.` This is true enough, and Ochs is obviously is quite sympathetic to the cause and the spirit of these two men, but it is also unfortunately true that he fails to breathe much life into them.

Had done more to illuminate the humanity of these heroes, his history would have had both merit and appeal. As it is, it is for specialists only.

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8071-2531-8

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Louisiana State Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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