The reputation of Arnold Toynbee—whose Study of History was called by Time magazine "the best available guide to the meaning of history and the destiny of humankind"—has over the intervening years slipped into a scholarly limbo. Toynbee's type of sweeping overview of the rise and decline of civilizations has become suspect; specialization is now the watchword among historians. In this gracefully written, subtly reasoned, warts-and-all (thought not vindictive) biography, McNeill (History/Univ. of Chicago; Rise of the West, 1964) does not aim to set Toynee back atop a pedestal, but merely to stimulate a reevaluation of the British historian's theories and works. The result is a cogent, evenhanded, and consistently involving study. The author is just as scrupulous in his depiction of Toynbee's personal life. He makes no attempt to gloss over his subject's many shortcomings: Toynbee's combination of outward modesty and inward craving for adulation, his near-pathological concern for financial security, his coldness toward his children, his snobbery. The only son of a middle-class family aways terrified of toppling into genteel poverty, Toynbee was an intellectual wonder. He was awarded scholarships to prestigious schools and consistently walked off with honors. He remained a researchaholic all his life, turning out masses of detailed papers and books; and later married the imperious Rosalind Murray, daughter of Gilbert Murray and his aristocratic wife, Lady Mary—a connection that eased his rise to prominence. As his monumental Study of History appeared in volume after volume, his reputation likewise burgeoned. Ultimately, after several children, Rosalind converted to Roman Catholicism, and the marriage split asunder. Toynbee was devastated, but in time he married his research assistant. Over the years, he formed his own peculiar version of religiosity; it was this spiritual "awakening" that accounts for the switch in tone between the earlier and later volumes of his masterwork, a disparity often noted by subsequent critic/historians. A fair and stimulating look at an immensely gifted, immensely flawed figure.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 19-505863-1

Page Count: -

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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