PositiveHistorical Novel Society... a page-turning tale ... a gritty and moody story ... The Abstainer succeeds in keeping the reader tense and uneasy, much like the polluted, portentous air hanging over Manchester. The brooding and lyrically written cat-and-mouse narrative of Doyle and O’Connor is excellent; however, one feels a lost opportunity for a more complex historical novel populated with deeper back stories. But if the reader is looking for a taut tale exploring the brutal vagaries of men’s hearts, The Abstainer is a provocative novel that invites further discovery of a troubled time.
RaveThe Open Letters Review... expertly crafted ... brings a fresh interpretation to the man himself, while dancing skillfully around the more controversial—and unsavory—aspects of his rule during the years spanning the Haitian Revolution of 1791 and the Haitian War of Independence in 1802 ... While there are gaps in Louverture’s early historical record, Hazareesingh creatively addresses this research obstacle by expanding on the social and cultural history of Saint-Domingue, giving us a glimpse into the world that shaped young Toussaint ... Perhaps the most effective way to deal with the messier aspects of Louverture—his owning of slaves, his later authoritarian acts, and even his white mistresses—is to approach the intellectual interiority of the man, which is exactly what Hazareesingh does in fascinating detail. Using recently uncovered documents in British, French, and Spanish archives, he dives into the deep pool of Louverture’s mind ... a well-written, if slightly hagiographic, addition to Louverture historiography. With a wealth of previously undiscovered documents shedding new light on his beliefs and intellectual passions, we get a bit closer to this intriguing man who helped free a nation.
RaveThe Open Letters ReviewEvery once in a long while, a book comes along that pulls back the curtain on an unheralded time in America’s civil rights past and leaves one inspired and eager to learn more. The Black Cabinet is an invaluable historical contribution to an overlooked era of American history that had far-reaching impacts for African American civil rights movements still to be born ... Watts brings to life these fascinating and inspiring lives ... Watts’s elegant and understated writing never leads the reader by the nose, but rather lets these vanguard civil rights leaders speak for themselves. The Black Cabinet is essential reading, now more than ever, to remind Americans of how long and hard the road to achieving civil rights was and still often is for African Americans. The courage, dignity, and fortitude of the men and women of the Black Cabinet serve as a continuing inspiration for all of us.
PositiveThe Open Letters ReviewReplete with a rich repertoire of colorful characters, Clavin skillfully weaves multiple storylines into a taut thread that reaches its breaking point in late October 1881 ... Clavin is his most entertaining when exploring the Earp family history and discussing the brothers’ interesting habit of not marrying their lady companions ... A refreshing aspect of Tombstone is the experience of the women who were impacted by the events just as much as the men ... a rousing tale of American Wild West mythology recounted by a raconteur par excellence. For those who enjoyed Dodge City and Wild Bill, Tom Clavin’s latest is a must for your bookshelf.
Nino Haratischvili, Trans. by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin
RaveHistorical Novel SocietyIt is not idle hyperbole to say The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili is the War and Peace of the 20th century, as well as the best piece of international fiction in the 21st ... Haratischvili’s massively sprawling tale of one Georgian family’s harrowing experiences in the Red Century joins the ranks of the best historical sagas in literature ... Replete with rich and deeply drawn characters navigating the maelstrom of revolutionary Russia and the horrors of Stalin’s Soviet Union, the novel begins with women and ends with them, as well. Haratischvili does a great service in portraying the experiences of women in war, as well as the price many paid for the men they chose. There are gut-churning episodes, to be sure, but most of Haratischvili’s female protagonists find a way to push forward through unimaginably bleak scenarios. One quibble is that many of her male characters often lack the mental fortitude and emotional intelligence of their female counterparts, coming off as extremely fragile and weak willed in too many instances ... Overall, The Eighth Life is a 944-page opus that grabs you by the head and heart from the first page and refuses to let go. Readers will enjoy this delicious blend of family and 20th century history-in-the-making as seen through the eyes of several generations. After the last page, you will wish there were more… just like that last piece of chocolate. Highly recommended.
Javier Cercas, Trans. by Anne McLean
PositiveHistorical Novel Society... a curious book ... a hypnotic reverie of ifs and what ifs, as Cercas combines the known with the unknown ... Recommended.
David D. Hall
PositiveOpen Letters Review... magisterial and thought-provoking ... exhaustively researched and elegantly told ... Hall has \'taken the Cross\' and acquitted himself admirably in presenting a definitively researched explanation for a phenomena many of us still don’t understand ... goes a long way toward explicating the inexplicable and should stand as the definitive history for some time to come.
RaveOpen Letters Review... rivetingly recounted ... [Levy] digs deep not only into the archival sources but also the psyche of men exposed to the worst privations imaginable ... Amply illustrated with maps and photos showing the routes of the initial expedition, the retreat, and the various rescue ships sent (unsuccessfully) to rescue and/or provide provisions, Levy takes us on a long journey ... Levy’s narrative of the arduous trials that follow vividly transports the reader to the farthest reaches of the inhabitable earth, as we observe the horrors the Greely Expedition in detail: the inconceivable cold, starvation, near mutiny, and the dimming hopes of rescue as the ice packs groan and explode around them. Amid the steady mental and physical deterioration of the group, Levy paints with pathos a picture of the expedition’s members, from commander to the lowliest private. In these portraits-in-miniature, their character and personalities reveal both the best and worst of humans in crisis: heroism, grit, selflessness, but also dishonesty, disobedience, and callous self-regard ... It is a tale as old as time, but never gets old in the telling—and Levy does it superbly. Labyrinth of Ice takes the reader to the forbidding Farthest North in the best way possible as we avidly turn the pages, sipping hot tea from a cozy, warm chair.
RaveOpen Letters ReviewGiglio takes the reader uncomfortably close to the realities of a war almost chameleon-like in its character, where foes become allies and allegiances shift as quickly as the desert sands ... Giglio’s trenchant reporting along the Turkish border reveals the people who had to play fast and loose with the truth to secure their own existence just as much as a profit, showing us the ugly gray areas between activities most label simplistically ... In this hair-raising account, Giglio’s writing thrums with the blood pulse of battle, speeding up only to jerk into slow motion as thoughts and visions race through a mind contemplating death ... What powers this book more than the chilling accounts of bullets zipping through the air and bombs roaring near and far, however, are the people Giglio encounters and the stories they share. They are the beating heart of this story, and they are truly unforgettable ... All the people Giglio portrays in this book have some type of lesson to share or a warning to impart. It behooves us to listen and take note.
RaveOpen Letters ReviewThe Will of the People tells a new story about the American Revolution, one mostly left in the deep shade of the Founding Fathers’ towering shadows. Eschewing the standard histories of the Revolution that place primary importance upon its political theories and legal reasoning, Breen revises this overdone focus to highlight...the small communities across the fledgling nation who daily sustained the fight for independence via a new vehicle of political activism, the committee. In the early days of revolt and continuing through the long conflict, Committees of Safety (or other similarly named associations) sprang up across the colonies ... The organization and policing of resistance is a big theme in Breen’s work, woven seamlessly into chapters examining a different element of the people’s \'emotional environment,\' such as rejection, assurance, fear, justice, betrayal, and revenge. In each case, Breen steps back to allow the people’s voice to supply the narrative through a rich surfeit of primary sources ... Breen has written an extremely well-paced and engaging account of those who never enjoyed the attentions of history. Until now.
Michael Patrick Lynch
PositiveOpen Letters ReviewLynch describes in readably academic prose how the information pollution we subject ourselves to everyday has increased the incivility of our discourse ... Lynch threads other great thinkers throughout the fabric of his argument: Hume, Locke, Hobbes, Sartre, Wittgenstein, Arendt, and of course, Socrates, dance onto Lynch’s pages with their insights and warnings ... Lynch’s audience would be those open to questioning their assumptions, or at least wondering why so many people today posture as experts on everything. If you pick up this book looking for reinforcement of your political position, just know the author employs powerful and contemporary examples of the ways intellectual arrogance has dirtied the political climate on both the Right and the Left. No one gets out of this book unscathed.