A haunting and illuminating book marking the centennial of the assassination.




The engrossing story of Gavrilo Princip (1894-1918), the 19-year-old Bosnian Serb nationalist whose assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, on June 28, 1914, sparked World War I.

While covering the Bosnian War of the 1990s, former Daily Telegraph correspondent Butcher (Chasing the Devil: A Journey Through Sub-Saharan Africa in the Footsteps of Graham Greene, 2011, etc.) became intrigued by Princip after visiting a littered Sarajevo chapel that commemorated the assassin’s name. In 2012, he returned to the Balkans to follow the path of the young peasant’s life from his home in the remote hamlet of Obljaj (where Princip left his initials on a rock and declared, “One day people will know my name,”) to Sarajevo, where he became a student and “slow-burn revolutionary” determined to overthrow the Austro-Hungarian occupiers of his homeland. Butcher details the assassination (Princip’s first shot cut the Archduke’s jugular vein; the second killed his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg), the ensuing trial and the assassin’s death in prison from tuberculosis. The author’s intelligent, near-obsessive, textured account of the assassin’s life and times is a fascinating history of a complex region rife with ethnic rivalries and a vivid travelogue of a dangerous journey across a landscape marked by the minefields and devastation of the fighting of the 1990s. More broadly, Butcher makes clear the importance of Princip’s act as the spark that detonated an “explosive mix of old-world superiority, diplomatic miscalculation, strategic paranoia and hubristic military overconfidence.” Deliberately misrepresenting the assassin’s motives (which were to liberate not only Serbia, but all south Slavs), Austria-Hungary invaded Serbia, which led to World War I. Butcher notes that under different regimes, Princip has been remembered variously as a hero and a terrorist. The author views him as “an everyman for the anger felt by millions who were downtrodden far beyond the Balkans.”

A haunting and illuminating book marking the centennial of the assassination.

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2325-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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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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