The war’s bitterness memorably recaptured.




Veteran historian Allen (Remember Valley Forge: Patriots, Tories, and Redcoats Tell Their Stories, 2007, etc.) offers a lively account of the colonists who remained loyal to King George during the Revolutionary War.

At the war’s outset, George Washington believed that Tories were merely deluded, insufficiently alert to Parliament’s encroachment on their liberties. By the spring of 1778, after watching Tories and their sympathizers feed the British occupiers of Philadelphia while the Continental Army starved at Valley Forge, Washington favored shooting some infamous Loyalists as a way of striking terror into those who might be similarly inclined. Sometimes we forget that America’s revolt against the British was quite literally a family quarrel, a civil war that became decidedly uncivil and often descended into savagery. From prewar acts of intimidation that featured kidnapping of the king’s agents, tarring and feathering and “smoking” (securing a victim in a locked, chimney-blocked room, then building a fire), to the skull breaking, scalping, massacres, terrorism and give-no-quarter battles of the war itself, Allen charts the increasing ferocity of this fight between those who remained faithful and those who opposed the king. Many Loyalists left the colonies once the war began in earnest. Others stayed and, having forfeited their land, homes and businesses, knew their only chance at restoration was for the British to win. They took up arms against their Patriot neighbors—as did many Native Americans and a number of slaves offered their freedom for fighting on the British side—and served as spies and scouts for the occupation forces. The author treats the war chronologically and reports especially well on the colonies, where loyalty to the monarch remained particularly robust. He highlights Benedict Arnold’s betrayal, tells the tale of Benjamin Franklin’s Tory son, examines the religious divide that mirrored the conflict among colonists and explains how colonial governors and British generals sought to enlist the aid of “good” Americans to subdue the bad.

The war’s bitterness memorably recaptured.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-124180-2

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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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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