A dreamlike memoir of the violence and sexuality underlying a well-planned family landscape, its statuary nooks and architectural crannies filled with secrets. Lessard (a contributing editor to Mirabella and the Washington Monthly and Whiting Award winner) is the great- granddaughter of turn-of-the-century architect Stanford White, a man best remembered as the shooting victim in the notorious love triangle also involving Harry Thaw and his wife, Evelyn Nesbit. Lessard and her five sisters grew up near Smithtown, Long Island, on the White estate known as the Place, where the family retreated in the wake of the stunning public disclosures about Stanford White's debauchery that followed his death. The circumstances of White's death and his secret dissipations were never mentioned at the Place, where Lessard's often privileged childhood included horses, boats, and acres to roam, and a covey of loving and eccentric relatives. But sometimes the male relatives, including her father, were overly loving, and some gun-toting eccentrics were prone to violence. Lessard lived in an atmosphere that was safe, but not safe; when she moved to Manhattan on her own, she responded to White's designs—including the landmark Washington Square Arch—with both joy and fear, feelings she felt were anchored in her family experiences. A meeting with her sisters in which each revealed sexual experiences with their father plus disclosure of a cousin's rape by another cousin while the rest of the family danced in the barn on the Place led her to explore the family past. Most interesting are chapters on great-grandfather Stanford's architectural and hedonistic adventures, plus tales of her Chanler/Astor relations. Stories of her growing-up have a narcotic quality that keeps the reader at bay. Probably therapeutic for the author, riveting for the social voyeur, and mildly illuminating for the student of family pathology. (First serial to the New Yorker)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-385-31445-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1996

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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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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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