BUDAPEST DIARY

IN SEARCH OF THE MOTHERBOOK

Suleiman (French/Harvard; Risking Who One Is, 1994) returns to her birthplace after more than 40 years, looking for her Hungarian Jewish roots. Susan Rubin was a little girl when her parents fled through darkened fields to escape the Communist regime in Hungary in 1949. Through a series of lucky accidents, they had managed to avoid the Nazis and their Hungarian henchmen during the Holocaust; now they were on the run to America. In 1984 Suleiman went back to Budapest with her two young sons for a vacation, trying to give them a sense of her childhood in that beautiful Central European city. Finally, nine years later, she returned again, this time on a six-month fellowship. The bulk of Budapest Diary recounts that lengthier visit, colored by memories of her childhood and her own imaginings of how her sons, now almost grown men, would regard this latest trip. At the heart of her book is the understandable desire to retrieve a piece of family history, to situate herself in ``a feeling of `at homeness,' '' as she puts it. Gradually, the author finds herself, a perpetual emigrant, developing something like that feeling for the city in which she was born. At the same time, she must come to terms with memories of her parents' stormy marriage; her father was a Hasidic rabbi, her mother a devotedly secular Jew who would taunt him for his ``slum'' upbringing. At its best, the book is a poignant piece of self-revelation, sprinkled with some trenchant observationis on the way the dead hand of history has weighed down the former Warsaw Pact countries. Unfortunately, too much of the second half of the book becomes a mere catalogue of movies seen, parties attended, and dinners eaten. Although this fails to deliver on the promise of its first half, the book is an engaging jaunt through one of the most interesting of the emerging eastern European nations.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8032-4256-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more