Solidly researched history presented with verve and gusto.



Provincial sailors challenge an empire in this rousing account of the Continental Navy.

In late 1775, the Continental Congress set out to assemble a modest navy to confront the British warships that had been shelling Colonial towns. After independence was declared, the navy’s duties expanded to include escorting merchantmen and harassing British shipping. The project appeared nearly impossible—the British fleet was the world’s most powerful—and the notion that it could be effectively opposed by a few hastily built or purchased ships appeared preposterous—all of which just makes this story the more stirring. McGrath (John Barry: An American Hero in the Age of Sail, 2010) delivers a lively history of the Continental Navy, from its birth at the urging of John Adams to the end of the war, replete with political and diplomatic intrigue, personal tragedies, shipwrecks, prison escapes and plenty of sea battles. John Paul Jones is here, of course, but the author also brings to the fore such lesser-known but equally audacious warriors as Gustavus Conyngham and John Barry. Throughout, the commanders battle not just the enemy, but the incompetence to be expected in a fledgling military service, as well as shortages of men, arms and money, often exacerbated by a dilatory and bankrupt Congress whose members were financing privateers competing with the navy for resources. With discouraging frequency, the new navy’s ships were wrecked, sunk or captured to be used against the rebellious colonists, but the tiny fleet nevertheless provided critical assistance by supplying Washington’s army with desperately needed munitions and supplies; the fleet also diverted British naval resources by carrying the war into European and Caribbean waters. McGrath puts readers at ease by unobtrusively explaining the technical aspects of naval warfare in the age of sail. His gripping descriptions of pursuit and combat at sea are the equal of any fiction, with the added virtue of being entirely true.

Solidly researched history presented with verve and gusto.

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-451-41610-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: NAL Caliber/Berkley

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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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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