Rigorously researched, intelligent, compassionate. A tour de force. (2 maps, 50 illustrations, not seen)

WHITE MUGHALS

LOVE AND BETRAYAL IN EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY INDIA

Masterfully demonstrating that truth can trump fiction, English travel writer Dalrymple (From the Holy Mountain, 1998, etc.) relates a wrenching tale of love’s labors lost on the Indian subcontinent.

In the last years of the 18th century, Major James Achilles Kirkpatrick, British Resident at the Court of Hyderabad, fell in love with and eventually married Khair un-Nissa Begum, a bright and beautiful teenager, the great-niece of the local diwan (prime minister). The couple’s son and daughter went to live in England with their paternal grandfather and never saw their mother again. The daughter, Kitty, later became the object of Thomas Carlyle’s amorous attentions (unconsummated) and served as the model for a character in Sartor Resartus. Dalrymple discovered the threads of this story during a brief sojourn in Hyderabad and quickly realized they could form a most attractive tapestry. His research is extensive, meticulous, even astonishing as he chases his characters across continents, unearthing a surprising number of critical documents that provide fuel for the light he casts over these long-obscured events. The British authorities were so alarmed about their Resident’s behavior that they held several investigations; the author located official reports and quotes liberally from them. But Kirkpatrick was such an asset to the British cause in the region—he negotiated tricky treaties, spoke the local languages, finessed and eventually expelled the French—that he kept his position despite the scandal and the determined efforts to dislodge him made by India’s Governor General, the intractable Richard Wellesley (brother of Arthur, Duke of Wellington). Illness eventually killed Kirkpatrick at age 41, and his widow took up with his assistant, who—unlike his deceased superior—yielded to enormous pressures and gave her up. Dalrymple argues that the Brits “went native” a lot more than has been commonly thought and that West can meet East if love is the lingua franca.

Rigorously researched, intelligent, compassionate. A tour de force. (2 maps, 50 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-670-03184-4

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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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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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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