LIBERTY!

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

Bestselling historian and novelist Fleming (Remember the Morning, p. 1049) offers a solid popular history of America's era of unrest, revolution, and constitutional government (176389) in this lavishly illustrated companion volume to a three-part PBS series airing in November. How to make a familiar story into something new? Fleming starts from an old but often forgotten historical perspective—the idea that individuals matter—by personifying English folly and American resistance in two men named George. In contrast to histories centered more on American responses, Fleming stresses the role of the young King George III, who alienated able ministers such as William Pitt, sought out toadies to head his government, and rammed confiscatory tax (and increasingly anti-American) policies through an unrepresentative, corrupt Parliament. In contrast, the drive for American liberty was spearheaded by the incorruptible George Washington, who accepted civilian control of the military (despite his constant complaints about Congress) and continually renounced opportunities to become a Cromwellian dictator. Although Fleming includes an affectionate portrait of Benjamin Franklin, he concentrates his account on military events, with gripping details on key battles (e.g., when falling sleet ruined much of his men's gunpowder just before the battle of Trenton, Washington gave the order to use the bayonet). Numerous sidebars highlight such matters as daily life in the late colonial period (only 200 out of 3,500 practicing doctors in America on the eve of revolution had medical degrees), the evolution of ``Yankee Doodle,'' the war's high casualty rate, and the long-neglected role of such racial/ethnic groups as the Irish, Jews, and blacks (a group that by 1779 comprised almost 15 percent of America's army). The book's one irony, given its title, is that Fleming devotes little attention to the differing conceptions of liberty throughout the colonies. Lacking in analytical depth, but packed with narrative insight into personalities and often delicious minutiae. (300 color illustrations) (Book-of-the-Month Club main selection; History Book Club selection)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-670-87021-8

Page Count: 394

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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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

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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