Generation-spanning tales of the North Pacific from a Pulitzer-winning historian who's also a gifted storyteller. Given the breadth of the claim he's staked on a vast area that extends along a coastal arc from Baja California to China, it's no wonder that McDougall (...The Heavens and the Earth, 1985) chose a Michener-like format for his absorbing if episodic saga. It's the author's elegantly effective conceit that the favorite consort of Hawaii's King Kamehameha has summoned him and others to pass judgment on regional events over a span of nearly four centuries. Among the heavenly guests are Hiresi Saito (Japan's ambassador to the US during the 1930's), Junipero Serra (the Spanish monk whose missions opened Alta California to white settlement), William Henry Seward (Lincoln's secretary of state), and Count Sergey Witte (Tsar Nicholas II's prime minister). With more than a dozen breaks for spirited colloquies with his phantom collaborators, McDougall offers short-take accounts of historical milestones ranging in time from the opening of new sea lanes during the late 16th century through the 1950 outbreak of hostilities between North and South Korea. Covered along the way are oceangoing voyages of discovery (by Captain Cook et al.); development of the fur trade; gold rushes; earthquakes (in Tokyo as well as San Francisco); the impact of transport technologies (steamships, railroads, aircraft); the US purchase of Alaska; imperial Japan's conflicts with Russia; WW II; and more. While offbeat, the author's framework allows him to focus on questions he deems most consequential and to examine them from several standpoints. The discontinuous chronicle addresses substantive issues throughout, concluding, among other matters, that over the years demographic forces have proved far stronger than governmental imperatives. Perceptive, coherent perspectives—mounted in a flashy and accessible text—on a once-remote domain that's a world unto itself. (Thirty-two pages of maps and photos—not seen).

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1993

ISBN: 0-465-05152-9

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1993

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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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