A treat for Tudor afficionados, but others might find this a heavy read.




A history of the Tudor reign, which solidified the power of the crown amid great religious tumult.

The Tudors ruled during one of the most awkward stages of English history. Henry IV came to power by the sword, defeating the dastardly Richard III, who had murdered his rivals to the throne. The first Tudor wasn’t much more humane, however, and he kept a ruthless grip on the nobility, who every now and then raised armies against him. Oxford historian Brigden (London and the Reformation, not reviewed) provides the well-known tales of court intrigue and chivalry as well as the social context for these changes. She describes the difference between the aristocracy, gentry, and commoners (discussing at length the crisis instigated by the country’s focus on sheep herding rather than other forms of agriculture, for example). The author also brings in literature of the day (e.g., Thomas More’s Utopia) to illustrate trends in the era’s political thought. These asides come frequently, as a new monarch always pops up to replace the old: Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I succeed each other in dramas springing mostly from the Reformation. Mary reversed the direction of her father’s church, delivering the nation back into the hands of Spain and the Hapsburgs, only to die childless, with Elizabeth waiting behind her. The author successfully conveys how switching back and forth between Protestantism and Catholicism was a sea change for the people: in 1553, when Mary assumed power, half the population was under 20 and had no recollection of the Catholic faith. Elizabeth, the last Tudor, is the most charming. Brigden portrays Elizabeth, the patron of Shakespeare, as the first and only softhearted Tudor. She concluded treaties with Scotland and told her governors in Ireland to rule by persuasion rather than force (the governors didn’t listen). She reluctantly executed Mary Queen of Scots. And when the Irishman Hugh O’Neill revolted against her, she offered him pardon.

A treat for Tudor afficionados, but others might find this a heavy read.

Pub Date: June 25, 2001

ISBN: 0-670-89985-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2001

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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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