A fresh and often witty account in which the author quotes freely from correspondence and periodicals to create a lively...




A deftly told tale of a magnificent water lily that, during the Victorian age, captured the attention of British horticulturalists, wowed the British public and became the inspiration for the Crystal Palace, then the largest building in the world.

Dickens scholar Holway has assembled a terrific cast of characters, including the German Robert Schomburgk, hired by the Royal Geographic Society to survey the new colony of British Guiana and discoverer of the flower on the River Berbice in 1837; John Lindley, the botanical authority who classified the find as Victoria regia; and Sir Joseph Banks, the force behind the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Getting a viable plant to England took years, and getting it to thrive and bloom there led to competition between Joseph Paxton, the multitalented head gardener at Chatsworth, and Sir William Jackson Hooker, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens. The star of the saga is Paxton, an ambitious individual with little education who figured out what the plant needed to survive, flourish and bloom. He designed and had built the large plate-glass–and-wrought-iron building that protected it, inspired, as he said, by the structure of the leaves of the plant itself. Paxton, who was later knighted, went on to use those same features to design the enormous Crystal Palace erected in Hyde Park to house the Great Exhibition in 1851. Not essential to the story but a happy bonus is Holway’s description of the exhibition, which featured not just nature and art, but a cluttered mass of industrial objects from around the world.

A fresh and often witty account in which the author quotes freely from correspondence and periodicals to create a lively portrait of Victorian England and of the widespread passion for flowers and gardening at that time.

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-19-537389-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013

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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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