An engaging glimpse into the events that shaped the Mediterranean basin as we know it today.

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SEA OF FAITH

ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY IN THE MEDIEVAL MEDITERRANEAN WORLD

Gripping account of Christianity and Islam’s first tortured millennium of combat and coexistence.

O’Shea (The Perfect Heresy, 2000, etc.) centers his narrative around the Mediterranean, which acts as a neutral witness to the historic events unfolding on its diverse shores. His sweeping tale covers nearly a thousand years and takes the reader back and forth from the Holy Land to Iberia, starting in an age of swordsmen and archers and ending with the use of cannons and firearms. Folded among the battles were periods of peaceful coexistence during which trade and culture flourished. The author attempts to focus readers on the importance of this convivencia, the practice of Muslims and Christians living together in harmony. However, as meaningful as convivencia was to history, his account cannot ignore the brutal warfare that more dramatically shaped the Mediterranean basin. O’Shea looks closely at seven major battles, each a turning point in its own right: Yarmuk (636), Poitiers (732), Manzikert (1071), Hattin (1187), Las Navas de Tolosa (1212), Constantinople (1453) and Malta (1565). He stresses each side’s culpability and points out that Christian-on-Christian and Muslim-on-Muslim violence were often meted out in addition to interfaith warfare. Specific personalities—brutal warriors, incompetent princes, zealous religious leaders—take center stage in individual chapters. Augmenting the historical account are firsthand descriptions of the battlefields, towns and buildings today, often starkly contrasting the slaughter of medieval battle with the bucolic tranquility of these sites in modern times. However, though O’Shea is obviously conscious of the impact of Christian-Muslim conflict on modern politics, he does not dwell on these connections; readers searching for such analysis will have to look elsewhere. Vivid vocabulary, tasteful touches of humor and a traveler’s-eye-view of the Mediterranean enrich the history.

An engaging glimpse into the events that shaped the Mediterranean basin as we know it today.

Pub Date: June 13, 2006

ISBN: 0-8027-1498-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

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

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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