last week

Conflicted love during the Holocaust

I read historical fiction for the ways it can illuminate the past. When the characters are fictional, it’s the historical setting that intrigues me more. So, imagine my disappointment when it only gradually dawned on me that this novel was not about the Polish Jewish resistance and the liquidation of the Kraków Ghetto in 1943. […]

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3 weeks ago

Hillary Rodham before—and after—Bill Clinton

Alternate histories explore the what-ifs of the past. What if the Nazis had defeated Britain before Pearl Harbor triggered the US entry into World War II? What if the British had captured and imprisoned George Washington? Or, as in the case of Curtis Sittenfeld’s intriguing alternate political history, what if Hillary Rodham had never married […]

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a couple of months ago

John F. Kennedy’s lover kept a diary, and it was explosive

On October 12, 1964, a prominent Washington socialite named Mary Pinchot Meyer was shot to death on the towpath along the C&O Canal in storied Georgetown. An African-American man spotted there was arrested for her murder, but no compelling evidence ever surfaced to support his conviction, and he was acquitted at trial. The case attracted […]

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a few months ago

Nothing noble about the nobility in 15th century England

She was the second daughter of the richest and most powerful man in England, more mighty than the king himself. He was Richard Neville, my namesake, known throughout the land as “Warwick the Kingmaker.” And during her childhood, he deposed one king and placed another on the throne. It was all part of his life-long […]

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a few months ago

A biography of Joseph Stalin as told by the man himself

Across the Moscow River from the Kremlin lies the House on the Embankment. Built from 1928 to 1931, as Joseph Stalin was cementing his power at the helm of the Soviet Union, the building housed the nation’s elite. Top Party aparatchiks. Leading scientists. Artists. Writers. Journalists. Sports stars. Generals. Spies. Thus, during the purges of […]

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a few months ago

A gripping tale about the early American labor movement

For several decades in the mid-twentieth century, America’s middle class prospered and grew. A vigorous labor movement gained livable wages and steadily expanding benefits for millions. To some extent, labor owed its central role in the economy to the reforms of the New Deal and the social change wrought by World War II. From an […]

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a few months ago

A brilliant novel dramatizes life under Jim Crow

In 2020 American society lurched a little closer toward a reckoning with the deeply entrenched racism that has poisoned our history ever since 1619. But with our attention rightfully drawn toward police murders of young Black men, many of us have lost perspective on how much worse conditions were for people of color a mere […]

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a few months ago

Russian history through indirection in “A Gentleman in Moscow”

When historians look back at the twentieth century, they invariably designate the Russian Revolution of 1917-20 as one of the seminal events of the period. And it’s hard to dispute that judgment. Arguably, the Bolshevik takeover in Russia set in motion other world-shaking episodes, including the Nazi defeat in World War II, the arms race […]

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7 months ago

Ken Follett sets up the Kingsbridge Trilogy in a prequel

For decades Welsh novelist Ken Follett was best known for his bestselling thrillers, beginning with Eye of the Needle (1978), which established his reputation as a master of the craft. A decade later he indulged his longstanding passion for the architecture of classic European cathedrals when he published Pillars of the Earth (1989), the inaugural […]

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