THE GREAT SHAME

AND THE TRIUMPH OF THE IRISH IN THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING WORLD

In this detour into epic history, Australian novelist Keneally (A River Town, 1995, etc.) powerfully chronicles, as he did in Schindler’s List, the will to endure in the face of overwhelming catastrophe and man’s inhumanity to man, but this time through Irish political prisoners transported to his country—including several ancestors. The Potato Famine of the 1840s and the resulting deaths and mass migration reduced Ireland’s population by almost half within 40 years, at a time when the rest of Europe had increased in numbers. Immediately before and after the famine, spontaneous but ultimately futile protests swept the country—from —Ribbon— societies threatening landlords who dared to evict peasants, to members of —Young Ireland— who pushed for full independence in 1848. Britain’s preferred method of dealing with dissent was transport to Australia. In addition to this penal colony, Britain’s efforts to stamp out Irish rebellions would also influence, according to Keneally, —the intense and fatally riven politics of emigrant societies in the United States, Britain and Canada——countries to which the prisoners would turn after escapes or pardons. Yet Keneally also recalls the indomitable resolution of Thomas Francis Meagher, the impetuous orator who later commanded the Union’s famed Irish Brigade in the Civil War; John Boyle O—Reilly, who became a literary lion in his adopted city of Boston; and John Devoy, who not only organized a daring rescue of six Fenians by an American whaler in 1873, but over 40 years later helped plan Ireland’s Easter Rebellion. Securely placing his characters in time while never losing sight of their individuality, he brings to life a compelling array of exiles who, when they were not achieving glory or in their new countries, were also experiencing restlessness, disillusion, irrelevance, despair, alcoholism, and factionalism. Massive in scope, intimate in detail—and memorable in execution. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen) (History Book Club main selection; author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 1999

ISBN: 0-385-47697-3

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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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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