: 1900-1914

Through anecdotes and capsule biographies of painters, writers, musicians, scientists, and intellectuals, Cronin (The View from Planet Earth, 1981; Catherine, Empress of All the Russias, 1978, etc.) accounts for that dazzling but doomed culture of Paris during the ``Belle Epoque,'' the period between the Great Exhibition of 1900 and WWI. Believing that artists and intellectuals had immense impact on the ``bourgeois civilization'' that was Paris, Cronin re- creates the ``paradigm for civilized living'' from the philosophy of Boutroux, Blondel, and especially Bergson; from the writings of Gide, Proust, Claudel, PÇguy; from the art of Picasso, Matisse (who ``captured the color and joy of life''), Dufy, Utrillo, Modigliani; from the music of DÇbussy (``his finer gradations of feelings''), the theater of Sarah Bernhardt (``gently mannered comedy''), the science of the Curies and Poincoire, and all the arts associated with and stimulated by Diaghilev and the Russian ballet. Chapters on politics, women (their roles and couturiers), interior design, and technology-especially the French success with cinematography, motorcars, and airplanes-all contribute to a sense of prosperity, confidence, optimism, political liberality, the special quality of esprit Cronin defines as intellectual and spiritual confidence. In a perceptive synthesis of science and art, he notes that ``The Fall...has been reversed by the Flight.'' And while his attempt to identify the contributions of some thinkers is occasionally strained, it is always interesting, especially on Gide's spirituality and Claudel's ``redemptive suffering.'' The real limitation is in his excluding the illiterate (believing that ``literature is at the very center of life'') the provincial, and the poor. Still: an engrossingly vivid, immediate, and informed attempt to find a unified view of a culture that was made up of eccentrics, idiosyncrasy, diversity, and alienation.

Pub Date: April 18, 1991

ISBN: 0-312-04876-9

Page Count: 488

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1991

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?