Many sparkling anecdotes about jewels.




Some engaging stories in an ultimately unsatisfying investigation of nine precious stones.

In her 2003 debut, Color, arts journalist Finlay took readers on a tour of the palette. Now she takes the same tack with jewels, collecting the natural and social (if not exactly “secret”) history of gems, ranging from pearls to jet to rubies. The cleverest aspect of this book is its organization. Finlay’s table of contents follows Mohs’ scale of relative mineral hardness; she begins with oh-so-soft amber and concludes with the hardest stone, the diamond. As in Color, she travels all over the world to get her story: to Scotland to interview a retired pearl-fisher; to Egyptian deserts in search of emeralds; to Sri Lanka on the trail of sapphires; to Rangoon, where she attends the Myanmar Gems Emporium. The two most fascinating chapters examine opals and diamonds. In the former, Finlay tells the story of a cat skeleton that turned into opal and interviews a gem specialist named Len Cram, who has developed a new theory about how opals are formed. The diamond chapter includes the history of the Hope Diamond. For years, it was rumored to be cursed, but it was jeweler Pierre Cartier who actually concocted that tale to help get the hulking diamond sold. Finlay also reveals the history of the phrase “a diamond is forever” and credits the De Beers company with popularizing the diamond engagement ring.

Many sparkling anecdotes about jewels.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46694-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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...


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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