It’s hard to imagine a better-told brief history of the key years of the American Revolution.

THE CAUSE

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION AND ITS DISCONTENTS, 1773-1783

With his characteristically graceful prose, Ellis offers a short, straightforward history of a critical decade in the nation’s youth.

Unlike most of the author’s previous work—mostly reflective book-length essays on various aspects and leading figures of the Revolutionary era—this work is more in the line of traditional narratives about American history. While both elite leaders and average people populate these pages, no reader will mistake it for a social or cultural history or history-from-the-bottom-up. Nor is it a history of the entire Revolution, which usually starts no later than the 1765 Stamp Act crisis. Instead, Ellis digs in with the Boston Tea Party of 1773 and ends with the Treaty of Paris of 1783. His focus is on the Revolution’s male leaders, its politics, the colonists’ inner civil war, and military campaigns. Little here is new by way of interpretation. The author’s sole general argument—that the colonists’ victory was “foreordained”—won’t go unchallenged. This is, quite simply, a well-known story told by a master storyteller known for perceptive detailing. As is always the case with Ellis, he is brilliant at short takes—events, decisions, individuals. Here, he foregrounds four often overlooked men—diplomat John Jay, thinker and pamphleteer John Dickinson, military leader Nathanael Greene, and financier Robert Morris—without whom the Colonies might not have forged a nation. George Washington duly commands center stage, his character and genius indispensable for American victory. True to his own skills at bringing people alive, Ellis also includes sympathetic miniprofiles of normal, unsung participants in the period’s fraught events: loyalists, women, Native Americans, Joseph Plum Martin (“the Zelig of the American Revolution”), and, perhaps the most captivating, Washington’s personal slave, Billy Lee. The book’s only disappointment is its abrupt close.

It’s hard to imagine a better-told brief history of the key years of the American Revolution.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-898-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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