A welcome popularization of ancient history, with a nicely vengeful cliffhanger of an ending that begs for a sequel.

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PERSIAN FIRE

THE FIRST WORLD EMPIRE AND THE BATTLE FOR THE WEST

Why do they hate us? That’s what Herodotus wanted to know, and this lively history of the Persian Wars ventures a few answers.

Indeed, writes historian/novelist Holland (Rubicon, 2004, etc.), if history begins with Herodotus, then that question is the foundation of history. “Why, he wondered, did the peoples of East and West find it so hard to live in peace?” Herodotus thought it might have had something to do with the business of kidnapping princesses, or the savage attacking of Troy. Holland takes a longer view, writing of restless tribes of Central Asians and their push-pull migrations, of power-hungry satraps, of great emperors. The first was Cyrus, who dominated all of southwestern Asia. His lieutenant Harpagus seems to have had it in for the Greeks who lived along the coast of what is now western Turkey: “City by city,” Holland writes, “he brutally subdued them all,” except the lucky ones who fled to Greece and farther westward to Italy and Sicily. The Persians seem to have taken a liking to the things of Greece, and they pushed ever westward, led by the great general Xerxes. Cyrus knew of the Greeks; a delegation from the mainland once came to his palace and told him bluntly that they had better leave them alone, or “he would have to answer to those who sent them—the Spartans.” The Greeks apparently thought that mention of the Spartans was enough, but Cyrus and company were undeterred—and, to their sorrow, they learned their lesson in battles at places like Marathon, Salamis and Thermopylae. Holland’s descriptions of these epochal battles are suitably stirring, and if his East-versus-West notion is just a touch anachronistic, it points to all the misunderstandings, ambition and ignorance that have characterized that struggle ever since.

A welcome popularization of ancient history, with a nicely vengeful cliffhanger of an ending that begs for a sequel.

Pub Date: May 2, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-51311-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2006

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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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