An enjoyable account of an amazing human accomplishment.



A gung-ho English cyclist tackles the Iron Curtain Trail, aka the Euro Velo 13.

In this daring “ride too far,” as his wife put it, Moore (Gironimo!: Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy, 2015, etc.) chronicles a grueling 10,000-km bike ride over 90 days and through 20 countries, most of which were formerly in the Eastern Bloc. The real kicker here is not the distance—from Kirkenes, Finland, to Tsarevo, Bulgaria, on the Black Sea coast—but the type of vehicle he rode: an archaic East German–made MIFA 900, which was to Iron Curtain biking until 1990 as Trabants were to driving. A three-month car trip Moore took with his wife in 1990, just weeks after the Berlin Wall came down, serves as a nostalgic frame for this ambitious trek and informs the author’s affection for the small-framed “Communist shopping bicycle” he insisted on using in the name of authenticity—though he had to modify it somewhat for the journey. Starting in Finland in March, he faced deep snowfall and incredulous observers along the way, and there are some hilarious photos accompanying the tweets he made at the time and sketches of the route. The main worries were how to get enough to eat, which was a real problem in Romania (he lost many pounds), and fending off the stray dogs that often followed him menacingly. What he witnessed—through Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Greece, and so on—was the state of the demise of socialism. Some places were more triumphant than others, and the most troubling country was Russia, where he glimpsed the shocking polarization between rich and poor. Moore offers a smattering of history—World War II and the Soviet era—in this engaging, elucidating narrative, though some American readers may tire of the spasmodic writing and relentless Briticisms.

An enjoyable account of an amazing human accomplishment.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68177-299-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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