A satisfying recounting of some of the earliest American history.

A KINGDOM STRANGE

THE BRIEF AND TRAGIC HISTORY OF THE LOST COLONY OF ROANOKE

The story of the mysterious disappearance of the colonists who attempted to set up the first permanent British colony in the Americas.

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation vice president Horn (A Land As God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America, 2005, etc.) uses new archival material to piece together the history of more than 100 British colonists who landed on Roanoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina in 1587. The venture, sponsored by Sir Walter Ralegh, encountered trouble from the start. The colonists found the new land entirely inhospitable; they contended with fast-dwindling supplies as well as aggressive Native Americans, who brutally killed one colonist days after their arrival. Just one month after their initial landing, the settlers’ leader, John White, sailed back to England to obtain a relief force and to replenish supplies. When he finally returned in 1590 after many delays, the colony had disappeared, seemingly deserted. What happened to the colonists has been a mystery for centuries, with a number of different ideas advanced by historians over the years. Horn constructs a detailed theory of what he believes happened to many of the colonists—that they lived on elsewhere for years afterward, only to meet a tragic end. The author creates an engaging, you-are-there feel to the narrative, with rich descriptions of European politics, colonists’ daily struggles and the vagaries of relations between Native American tribes. Horn also provides helpful drawings and maps—many by John White—throughout this relatively brief but comprehensive book.

A satisfying recounting of some of the earliest American history.

Pub Date: April 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-465-00485-0

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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

1776

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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