A fascinating, well-told story by an author fully committed to his subject. Egan’s impeccable research, uncomplicated...

THE IMMORTAL IRISHMAN

THE IRISH REVOLUTIONARY WHO BECAME AN AMERICAN HERO

The story of Thomas Meagher (1823-1867), an Irishman radicalized by the famine who became a hero on three continents.

New York Times columnist Egan (Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis, 2012, etc.), winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, could have written multiple books about Meagher’s broad successes. He was a natural-born orator, and his gift encouraged his fellow Irish in hopes of freedom sooner, rather than “in time,” as per the Great Liberator, Daniel O’Connell. The author imparts the desperation of the starving families while pointing to the many wealthy Catholics and Protestants who worked to achieve liberty. During the Great Famine, England exported 1.5 billion pounds of grain as well as more beef than any other colony, while millions starved without the blighted potatoes that sustained them. After a fiery speech in Conciliation Hall and a betrayal by John Balfe, the English arrested Meagher and a handful of others for speaking out. Meagher was sent to Tasmania, and while he was not put into forced labor, he had limited contact with his fellow Irish. Discovering that the traitor Balfe had been given a land grant, he sent an anonymous series of letters to the press, exposing his perfidy. Eventually, with help from his wealthy father, he escaped. His reputation preceded him, and his welcome in America was riotous. His leadership and oration made him a great recruiter of his fellow countrymen during the Civil War. A different side of the Civil War emerges as the author describes the frustrations of war under Gen. George McClellan and the devotion of Meagher’s men. Exhausted after Chancellorsville, Meagher resigned and moved to Montana with his wife, where he fought yet again against a rabid vigilance committee.

A fascinating, well-told story by an author fully committed to his subject. Egan’s impeccable research, uncomplicated readability, and flowing narrative reflect his deep knowledge of a difficult and complex man.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-27288-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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