Flaws aside, Robb has broken significant new ground in this deep, fastidiously researched exploration into the ingenuity of...



When planning a bicycle route through the Alps of central Europe, Robb (The Discovery of France, 2007, etc.) discovered a sophisticated ancient Celtic landscape that called for nothing short of a revision of ancient history.

The author is a refreshing new voice in a canon of outdated, barbaric perceptions of an ingeniously advanced society and endlessly recycled quotes from Tacitus, Caesar or Cicero. “Tribes who used perishable materials where Romans used stone, and who recorded their histories in nothing more durable then brain tissue, are unlikely to be seen as sophisticated precursors of the modern world,” writes the author. However, through use of celestial mathematics, etymology, geometry, mapping and a charming measure of common sense, Robb reveals a clear picture of a culture that has been buried by the Roman conquest. He shatters the misconception that Rome built the first roads in Gaul and Britain, describing the well-maintained long-distance routes used by the Celts to move around their territories. They demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of astronomy and celestial movements, and they made mathematically inspired art. They also created one of the most prestigious universities in the ancient world (12 centuries before the Sorbonne) and laid out their cities, towns and sacred places via a series of meticulously ordered geometric and astronomical lines, imposing an intriguingly spiritual map on a very real terrestrial landscape. The dizzying array of tribal and place names—not frequently enough given modern geographical reference—and the occasionally tedious explanations of the mathematical/geometrical calculations may be necessary, but they are the weakest links in this otherwise gripping text. Some readers will also wonder if the title itself is a play to win readership from Tolkien fans, most of whom would find the book too dry for their tastes.

Flaws aside, Robb has broken significant new ground in this deep, fastidiously researched exploration into the ingenuity of the ancient Celtic people.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-393-08163-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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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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