An intriguing sidelight on the effects of climate change.



A panoramic overview of the wide-ranging social and political effects of a climatic catastrophe.

Historian William Klingaman (Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, 2001, etc.) and meteorologist Nicholas P. Klingaman join forces to document the atmospheric pollution from the massive eruption of an Indonesian volcano, Mount Tambora, in 1815. Black ash spread over nearby villages, and a cloud of sulfuric acid first moved over the Indian subcontinent and China and then spread to North America and Europe the following year, with disastrous consequences. Abnormally cold temperatures, respiratory problems, disease and crop failure followed in its wake. The authors begin their detailed account of the volcano in the winter of 1815–1816 as the aerosol cloud cooled temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere. The consequences were devastating because of crop damage and ensuing famine, most notably in Ireland but also in France and England and, to a lesser degree, on the Eastern Seaboard in America. Heavy snows in winter were followed by unusually volatile weather that affected crops adversely; a cold summer with barely any sunlight was worse. European grain stores were already depleted as a result of the Napoleonic wars, and commerce was disrupted by the transition from a war economy to peacetime. The Klingamans document the famine and social unrest that followed over the following year. At the same time, many lives were relatively untouched by the calamity—not only monarchs and the politicians who wrestled with problems of poor relief, but also Jane Austen and poets such as Byron and Shelley. One long-term result of the volcanic eruption was the increase in emigration to the U.S. and of more marginal American farmers westward.

An intriguing sidelight on the effects of climate change.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-67645-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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