Readers with an interest in Russian cultural history and urban history will find much of value in these pages.



“Peter’s dream capital was majestic but crumbling, even as it was built”: an expansive portrait of the calamity-laden urban center of European Russia.

St. Petersburg—the city that would be known as Leningrad throughout most of the 20th century and then revert to its old name—is a city built on swampy ground. As Dostoevsky noted, it is “damp, foggy, rainy, snowy, fraught with agues, catarrhs, colds, quinsies [and] fevers of every possible species and variety.” It has been the site of devastation and suffering and has spawned monstrous ideas and monstrous people, but it has endured, if improbably, and has even attained a certain majesty. Paris-based biographer Miles (The Dangerous Otto Katz: The Many Lives of a Soviet Spy, 2010, etc.) likens the city to New York in being a gathering place of strangers, foreigners, and people who wouldn’t easily fit anywhere else. The author also uncovers a few ironies, such as the fact that some of the city’s most impressive monuments were built by a French veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, who “submitted twenty-four different proposals in every known style, so it is hardly surprising that he won the commission.” Chronicling shifting cultural styles, including Czar Alexander III’s interest in making a more Russian city of his Russian capital, closing the popular Italian opera in the bargain, Miles turns in some familiar tales as well, populated by stock characters like Rasputin and Lenin. But perhaps not so familiar after all, since, as the author writes, the modern St. Petersburg is the city of the young, people for whom “the gulag is a distant epoch” and who are at home in the globalized era even if the Putin regime keeps them from realizing their potential. The author’s account is vigorous and readable but a touch long; one wonders at what the economical Jan Morris might have done had she logged a few seasons in Russia.

Readers with an interest in Russian cultural history and urban history will find much of value in these pages.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68177-676-7

Page Count: 600

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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