A must for every Civil War library.



A Bancroft Award–winning historian brings his considerable Civil War expertise to bear in searching for Abraham Lincoln’s beginnings and the events that shaped him.

Freehling (Emeritus, Humanities/Univ. of Kentucky; The Road to Disunion, Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant 1854-1861, 2007, etc.) shows how Lincoln’s shame at his father’s failures drove him to be better in everything he attempted. The author compares him to a Horatio Alger–type character, citing legends and comparisons that illustrated the self-made man who knew how to profit from setbacks. When he was a tall, lanky 7-year-old, his father put an axe in his hand to clear their land in Indiana. His father’s disdain for education may have been the stimulus for his son’s long years of reading aloud and alone over and over to commit to memory. What Tom gave his son was a gift for spinning hilarious tales, often crude but always memorable. Abraham’s frontier charm was all his own. His intelligence, melancholy, and dedication attracted help throughout his life, especially during his excruciating reversals and historic triumphs. Serving in the Black Hawk War, he found his own old-boy network, the group of men who fed him, housed him, and, more importantly, helped him to learn surveying, the law, and politics. He would not forget their help when he was in Washington, D.C. His first short forays into elected office in the Illinois legislature and the U.S. Congress taught him the ins and outs of politics and the folly of extremism. As the author notes, Lincoln said very little about slavery. We know he abhorred it, but he also was wise enough to know that extremists on both sides—abolitionists and secessionists—were bound to cause war. His prime objective was to preserve the union. Built on Freehling’s vast knowledge of the time period, this commendable biography shows the geographical division of opinions leading up to war and the life events that made the man who saved the union.

A must for every Civil War library.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8139-4156-1

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Univ. of Virginia

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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