10 Booklist October 15, 2017 www.booklistreader.com
child of that era himself, best-selling Matthews, host of MSNBC’s Hardball, regards
RFK’s legacy through personal recollections
and cogently illustrates leadership qualities
Kennedy possessed that are sorely lacking in
today’s divisive culture. —Carol Haggas
Chief Seattle and the Town That Took His
Name: The Change of Worlds for the Native
People and Settlers on Puget Sound.
By David M. Buerge.
Oct. 2017. 352p. Sasquatch, $25.95 (9781632171351).
Historian Buerge says that he researched
this book on Chief Seattle for 20 years; the
result is a remarkably thorough account of
the history of Puget Sound and the influential role Chief Seattle played in its early
growth. Seattle was born in 1786 to a Suqua-mish father and a Duwamish mother. When
he was a young child, his village was visited
by Captain Vancouver and the HMS Discovery. This initial meeting of whites and natives
perhaps foretold the conflicts in which Seattle would become enmeshed over the next
60 years. Buerge meticulously recounts the
many skirmishes between local tribes and the
encroaching settlers, especially during the
1840s and the relentless western expansion.
Buerge portrays Seattle as “a ruthless war
leader, a single-minded impresario, an influential head chief, and a Christian convert
who successfully navigated the transformation of his world.” More for the serious than
the casual reader of history, Buerge’s study is
a valuable and erudite portrayal of this influential chief and the tumultuous times in
which he led his people amidst the onslaught
of manifest destiny. —Deborah Donovan
London’s Triumph: Merchants,
Adventurers, & Money in
By Stephen Alford.
Dec. 2017. 304p. Bloomsbury, $28 (9781620408216).
Standing in the heart of early seventeenth-century London, John Earle surveys “a heap
of stones and men” and
hears “a strange humming
or buzz, mixed of walking,
tongues, and feet.” In this
fascinating history of Tudor
London, Alford helps readers to recognize the most
significant of this burgeon-ing municipality’s stones
and men and to tease out the globe-shaping
meaning of its dynamic buzz. Readers will relish what Alford tells them about the wrought
stones of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Drapers’ Hall,
the Royal Exchange, and other major London edifices. But far more fascinating are the
men who move through these buildings—
resourceful merchants such as John Isham, bold
explorers such as Anthony Jenkinson, and
shrewd financiers such as Thomas Gresham.
And in the humming buzz such men collec-
tively generate, readers will discern the sound
of a metropolis awakening to its global des-
tiny, challenging Antwerp, Madrid, Lisbon,
and Augsburg in its international sweep. So
widely does Tudor London pursue its inter-
ests that Alford’s tale carries readers to China,
Persia, Russia, and the Americas. Shakespeare
counts as just one of the vibrant contem-
porary voices—dramatists, diarists, and
preachers—Alford quotes to convey the ex-
citement and controversy in this remarkable
city’s ascent. Renaissance urban life unfolds as
stirring drama. —Bryce Christensen
The Mayflower: The Families, the
Voyage, and the Founding of America.
By Rebecca Fraser.
Nov. 2017. 400p. St. Martin’s, $29.99 (9781250108562).
Renowned historian Fraser brings us yet
another superbly written and enthralling
read as she interweaves the stories of those
who traveled from England and Holland
on the Mayflower and founded Plymouth
Colony, established from 1620 to the 1690s.
Focusing primarily on Edward Winslow, his
descendants, and their relationships with the
area’s Native American tribes and England,
she excels at showing how landscape, religion, and politics can irreversibly transform
a family and a community. Fraser’s research
was not limited to the history surrounding
the Mayflower and Plymouth Colony; she
also incorporates and fuses into one unified
narrative the stories of many different people
who came into contact with Winslow, along
with an incisive account of seventeenth-century England. The Mayflower reads as though
it were historical fiction, with a varied cast
of characters and perspectives, fine details,
background histories, and a holistic approach. With finesse and thorough research,
including genealogical searches, she provides a fresh account of Plymouth Colony
that reveals how, through trial and error,
the colonists survived, no matter the cost.
Highly recommended for history enthusiasts. —Jennifer Johnson
Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia.
By Steven Stoll.
Nov. 2017. 432p. illus. Hill & Wang, $30
Often cited as an example of poverty and
societal dysfunction, as in J. D. Vance’s
Hillbilly Elegy (2016), Appalachia, for Stoll
(The Great Delusion, 2008), has also meant
resistance and freedom from centralized
government for the people who, since the
nation’s earliest days, sought sanctuary in
its rugged uplands. Forests and the mead-
owed hollows between mountains provided
basic sustenance for “cabin-building, cattle-
grazing, bear-hunting households,” and
locally made whiskey had better exchange
value than currency from far-off banks.
But homesteaders could not long evade
the growing nation’s appetite for coal, tim-
ber, and tax revenue. Maps drawn to guide
Civil War armies were repurposed by indus-
trialists seeking land they could excavate or
clear-cut. Subsistence farming gave way to
subsistence wages in mines and factories and
dependency on the very industries that had
pushed settlers off their land. To truly un-
derstand Appalachian poverty, suggests Stoll,
we must start with this large-scale disposses-
sion. Offering a vast contextual woodland in
which to explore life in this storied region,
Stoll has created a feisty critique of capitalist
land use and a rambling and provocative his-
tory. —Brendan Driscoll
Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine.
By Anne Applebaum.
Oct. 2017. 464p. Doubleday, $30 (9780385538855). 947.7.
Pulitzer Prize–winning Applebaum’s (Iron
Curtain, 2012) richly researched account of
the Ukrainian famine of 1932–33 pulls no
punches, either in its harrowing descriptions of starvation or its assertive analysis of
the cynical Stalinist political calculus that
caused it. Although there were food shortages in many parts of the
USSR then, the situation in
Ukraine, traditionally the
breadbasket of Eastern Europe, was made particularly
dire by Soviet policy decisions designed to squeeze
value from the region and
punish it for past disloyalty.
Collectivization of farms forced peasants to
give up their land, depriving them of sustenance, while the authorities confiscated
all available grain for the military, Soviet
officials, and political loyalists. As the population began to starve, Stalin’s secret police
purged the region of intellectuals and Ukrainian nationalists, and fomented violence that
turned the poorest peasants against their slightly wealthier neighbors. The result, captured
in survivors’ accounts and further revealed in
recently opened archives, was hell on earth:
scoured landscapes, distended bodies and
destroyed minds, corpses in the street, and horrific choices. Applebaum deftly parses decades
of politicized reportage and deliberate obfuscation to show how seemingly distinct aspects of
Stalinism were deployed to suppress an independent Ukraine. Applebaum adds important
context and compelling insights to WWII history and more recent regional conflicts. Highly
recommended. —Brendan Driscoll
Revolution Song: A Story of
By Russell Shorto.
Nov. 2017. 512p. illus. Norton, $28.95 (9780393245547);
e-book (9780393245554). 973.3.
In this timely and engaging group biography, Shorto (Amsterdam: A History of the
World’s Most Liberal City, 2013) explores
the philosophical currents of the revolutionary era through an unusual assemblage
of life stories. He juxtaposes George Washington and Seneca military leader and
diplomat Cornplanter, and profiles Lord
George Germain, architect of British