A lively, well-researched history of lust for wealth and power.

KOH-I-NOOR

THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD'S MOST FAMOUS DIAMOND

The tale of a diamond that became a coveted prize during centuries of political turmoil.

The history of the Koh-i-Noor diamond is a narrative of greed, war, and barbaric cruelty. Dalrymple (Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42, 2013, etc.) and Anand (Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary, 2015) divide their chronology, with Dalrymple covering the gem’s history from its mysterious origins in antiquity, when it was apparently removed from the eye of an idol in southern India, through medieval times, devastating conflicts in the 17th and 18th centuries, and ending in 1839, when India’s ruler, and the gem’s owner, Ranjit Singh, died. Anand picks up the story with Britain’s increasing domination of India, the handing over of the diamond by Singh’s son to the East India Company, its perilous transit to Queen Victoria, and its fate up to the present. The diamond was large but not the largest in the coffers of Asian rulers: an inch and a half long, nearly an inch wide, and shaped like an egg. It became a symbol of power, worn on ceremonial occasions, strapped to the bicep of whoever possessed it; the gem was coveted despite its reputation of having “dark powers.” As Dalrymple writes, “few possessors of the Koh-i-Noor have led happy lives”—surely an understatement. “Its owners,” he acknowledges, “have variously been blinded, slow-poisoned, tortured to death, burned in oil, threatened with drowning, crowned with molten lead, assassinated by their own family and bodyguards, or have lost their kingdoms and died in penury.” The ship transporting the diamond to England was beset by cholera and a vicious storm. Although many who saw it described its amazing shine, viewers in England were disappointed when it was displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Prince Albert contrived a new display case but eventually decided to have it cut. The result was a brilliant diamond half its original size. Currently, India, Pakistan, and the Taliban are zealously pressing for its return, which England staunchly refuses.

A lively, well-researched history of lust for wealth and power.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63557-076-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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