Matthews opens a new window into the first settlements of America’s Pacific coast, the men who led it and the reasons for...



In the early 1800s, the Russians came very close to colonizing North America. Newsweek contributing editor Matthews (Stalin's Children: Three Generations of Love, War, and Survival, 2008) introduces us to the visionary men who attempted to build a Russian Empire.

The history of Russia and the picture of Catherine the Great’s court show how men like Nikolai Rezanov (1764–1807) and Grigory Shelikhov (1747–1795) had to grovel for permission and funding for their expeditions. It was the fur trade, not patriotic zeal, that beckoned men to America. Shelikhov established Russia’s first overseas colony at Kodiak in 1784. After three years, he returned to Russia as the largest fur trader in the country. Perhaps due to the lack of sources, Matthews does not devote nearly enough ink to this man nor to Alexander Baranov (1746–1819), whose work as the first governor of Russian Alaska ensured a strong foothold. As luck would have it, Shelikhov’s daughter married Rezanov, a St. Petersburg aristocrat searching for riches. Rezanov’s three-year journey to establish trade with Japan and advance the American colonies began badly with confusion over its leader, and his superior attitude destroyed any possibility of success. His constant arguments with the ship’s captain and his descent into madness, chronicled in the multiple journals of co-passengers, make for entertaining reading. Rezanov’s plans for a great trade route in the Pacific could have made Russia a great empire; alas, it was not to be. They failed to take advantage when the Spanish empire collapsed, and they sold Alaska to the United States in 1867, before the Klondike Gold Rush.

Matthews opens a new window into the first settlements of America’s Pacific coast, the men who led it and the reasons for its failure.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62040-239-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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