The premise has the potential to pull together a wide range of responses to the first battles of the Revolution, but slick,...



19 APRIL 1775

A brisk, lightweight overview of the beginnings of the American Revolution, tracing the reactions of patriots and loyalists as news of the Battles of Lexington and Concord traveled from Boston through New York and Philadelphia to the southern states and abroad.

The text zigzags awkwardly between reporting of the battles themselves and the progress of the news, and extended flashbacks and flash-forwards to future events create an anthology of anecdotes rather than a synthesis. The narrative thread is overwhelmed by descriptions of major and minor participants in the action. Hallahan (Misfire, 1994) conscientiously studs his descriptions with striking details—Daniel Leonard’s gold-trimmed cloak, John Hancock’s ravenous appetite—but the parade of brief, stereotypical sketches inevitably palls without the evocation of a larger context. The description of the arrival of the news in New York has some flair, conveying the frantic scrambles of the city’s Loyalist aristocrats, and the “Philadelphia” chapter offers memorable vignettes of women who claimed the Revolution as their own cause. That chapter also reflects Pennsylvania’s religious diversity, but African-Americans and the substantial number of non-British immigrants get short shrift throughout. Instead, Hallahan recapitulates already-familiar material, such as George Washington’s competition with Charles Lee for the command of the Continental Army, and the delivery of Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech at the Second Virginia Convention earlier in 1775. Discussions of major figures are marred by sweeping, unsupportable pronouncements (such as Hallahan’s claim that Samuel Adams “invented the art of revolution”). The last chapter offers follow-up information on the major characters; a useful appendix lists “Drumbeats toward Revolution” from 1760 to 1775.

The premise has the potential to pull together a wide range of responses to the first battles of the Revolution, but slick, simplistic prose and one-dimensional characterizations create the flat effect of advertising copy, not the complexity and texture of history. (illustrations)

Pub Date: April 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-380-97616-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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