Properly and compellingly recasts quaint folklore as a tragedy with important ramifications. (Photographs)

DARK TIDE

THE GREAT BOSTON MOLASSES FLOOD OF 1919

Boston native and journalist Puleo takes an incident that seems to belong in a Marx Brothers movie and resituates it in the city’s social history.

The 15-foot-high wall of molasses that inundated the streets of Boston’s North End in winter of 1919, the debut author explains, flows into such issues of the day as “immigration, anarchists, World War I, Prohibition, the relationship between labor and Big Business, and between the people and their government.” With a good sense of timing and an easy voice, Puleo sets the scene for the disaster to come: the rush to complete a giant tank holding more than two million gallons of molasses, the failure to have it properly tested, the blind eye that parent company US Industrial Alcohol turned to the tank’s copious leaks, and the threats it levied at workers who complained. The author also paints the period’s social picture. Discrimination against the North End’s Italian-born residents and their lack of political participation, whether barred from it or of their own volition, were important factors in the tank’s placement near their neighborhood. The rise of the anarchist movement and its strong antiwar sentiments made the tank a tempting target, since alcohol produced from the molasses went into the making of wartime munitions. The sheer destructive force of the molasses flood is jarringly presented in a number of vignettes about those trapped; 21 people died. In the ensuing court battle, Big Business was put on notice that it would not be trusted to police construction safety standards itself, it was not above the law, and it would be liable for damages.

Properly and compellingly recasts quaint folklore as a tragedy with important ramifications. (Photographs)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8070-5020-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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