A simultaneously propulsive and nuanced account that hums on the page.



A thorough, largely sympathetic account of the career of one of the ancient world’s most indelible and complex figures.

Freeman, the chair in humanities at Pepperdine whose more than 20 books include biographies of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, vividly, almost cinematically, brings to life the career of Hannibal Barca, the great but ill-fated Carthaginian general whose tactical and strategic brilliance is still studied today. The author draws from both of the two most important sources of information on his subject’s life (and legend), but he favors the more balanced, detailed account of Polybius over that of Livy, the Roman historian most hostile to the African leader. Freeman also gives full credit to the recent work of scholars who have helped illuminate Hannibal’s character and legacy as well as the world in which he lived. Despite the Roman chroniclers who demonized him, tradition holds that Hannibal, though capable of wholesale slaughter, was, by the standards of the day, generous in battle and humane in his treatment of his men and war animals, with an extraordinary gift for eliciting loyalty. In defeat, having turned his energies to rebuilding Carthage’s economy, he proved an able administrator. “Even the Romans, in their fear and hatred of Hannibal, could not help but admire his determination, brilliance, and ultimately his humanity. We should do nothing less,” writes the author, though he refrains from romanticizing his subject. In a fascinating speculation on what might have happened had Hannibal defeated Rome, Freeman also disputes many modern scholars’ belief that history unfolds solely from economic and cultural forces, insisting that “certain individuals at certain moments in time can change everything with a single decision.” And Hannibal profoundly changed Rome. The author gives Hannibal’s remarkable campaigns much credit for compelling Rome to alter its societal construction, becoming an empire that, for better or worse, would change the world.

A simultaneously propulsive and nuanced account that hums on the page.

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64313-871-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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