Books by Leon Uris

O’HARA’S CHOICE by Leon Uris
Released: Oct. 1, 2003

"Bloody battles well done, much excellent period writing (aside from love-stuff), and altogether a recovery from 2002's woozy A God in Ruins. (For our review of 1953's Battle Cry ['It's terrific . . . Don't miss it'], go to"
A posthumous novel by Uris, who died, at 78, on June 21, celebrates the Marine Corps, as did his first, Battle Cry, now marking its 50th anniversary. Read full book review >
A GOD IN RUINS by Leon Uris
Released: June 1, 1999

Uris takes on a subject bigger than the Irish (Trinity, 1976, and Redemption, 1995), the Jews (Exodus, 1958, and Mitla Pass, 1988), or the Arabs (The Haj, 1984). This time, it's Man himself, of whom Emerson says, "Man is a god in ruins . . . Infancy is the perpetual Messiah, which comes into the arms of fallen men, and pleads with them to return to paradise." The Messiah here, a Jewish orphan adopted and raised by a Catholic family, is the great liberal Quinn Patrick O'Connell, now at 60 governor of Colorado and Democratic candidate for president. Sloganeering about the nation's Moral Imperative, O—Connell has grand plans for the rehabilitation of ruined mankind through racial harmony. But he also has problems, including vile barbs from the incumbent president and rival messiah, black-hearted Thornton Tomtree. The time-span covers the last week before the election in 2008, with long flashbacks to WWII and forward. Will Quinn follow in the footsteps of JFK as our second Catholic president? And what is the terrible scandal in his past that may undermine his hopes? If elected, can he rise above riots and bomb-throwing, the blows from armed zealots and rigid fundamentalists whose hatreds divide the nation? Uris himself offers a rather woozy moral message bordering on bombast in a novel that may widen his audience and boost sales, but hardly matches the author's messianic ambitions. Read full book review >
Released: June 10, 1995

A sequel to Trinity, Uris's 1976 bestseller, that's as great and chaotic a muddle as Ireland's lengthy struggle for independence — which again serves as backdrop for what's essentially a multifamily chronicle. At the heart of the narrative is Rory Larkin, a wild colonial lad whose father (Liam) fled the Emerald Isle's grinding poverty during the mid-1890's. Although he enjoys great success as a New Zealand sheep-rancher, the squire misses his homeland. Despite an inability to express any paternal feelings for Rory, father Liam and uncle Conor (an itinerant Republican who figured prominently in Trinity) convey to the young man their love of country. Eventually, underage Rory (who's been having an affair the older married Georgia Norman, a noble and sensual nurse) marches off to WW I under an assumed name. He serves in an ANZAC outfit commanded, among other officers, by scions of an Ulster peer named Roger Hubble, who's loyal to the Crown and a nasty piece of work to boot. Rory earns a commission, mates up with men who would've been his enemies in the UK, survives Gallipoli, and is sent to the British Isles to recover from wounds. On the auld sod as aide to the brigadier Westminster assigned to pacify Irish Catholics after the Easter Uprising of 1916, Captain Rory falls in with rebel plotters, providing critical aid in the assassination of his despised CO. Protestant sympathizers persuade (would you believe?) Winston Churchill to doctor army records, and Rory lad is off on a long voyage home to be met by Liam (with whom he's been reconciled) and Georgia (the mother of his child and, surprise, now divorced). In this uneasy blend of fact and fancy, Uris frequently allows his virulently anti-British sentiments to get the better of his storytelling. Nor is he particularly adept at integrating mini-history lessons into a convoluted tale replete with studly (if honorable) Paddies, brutish Brits, and their saintly womenfolk. For those who hung on Battle Cry, Exodus, Topaz, and other Uris offerings, then, a considerable disappointment. Read full book review >
MITLA PASS by Leon Uris
Released: Nov. 1, 1988

A big breast-beater of a book about how one man vanquishes the demons devouring his soul. This foray draws heavily on the writer's own life, his experiences in Hollywood, and the Jewish immigrant heritage that by turns drag him down and, when finally confronted, allow him to realize himself. When the story begins, Gideon Zadok is a writer seeking to break through a painful block by joining the Lion Battalion of the Israeli Army in its surprise attack at Mitla Pass during the 1956 Sinai War. Gideon has pulled along his wife, Val, and their two daughters, leaving them in Rome as he attempts to maintain the tense truce that is his marriage. Val wanted Gideon to sell out to Hollywood after the success of his first book, Men in Battle (about his experiences as a marine in the Pacific), but Gideon shook himself free from Mammom to research a book on Israel. Once there, he continues his extramarital ventures, started back in Hollywood, by taking up with an aide to Ben-Gurion, Natasha Solomon. Meanwhile, just before the Sinai invasion, Uris freezes the action to launch into a long flashback through several generations of Zadoks wandering across Russia, the Holy Land, and, finally, America. Gideon's mother and stepfather, a communist labor organizer, give him a peripatetic and mostly unloving childhood, leavened only by his relationship with a grade-school teacher who deserts him to fight the Fascists in Spain (where she gets Hemingway to drop him a line about the rigors of writing). Gradually, Gideon's problems come clear: he feels worthless and unloved. Then, with the Egyptians blasting away at the Lions at Mitla, Gideon spills the beans about his experiences in WW II, when, he fears, he caused the death of his best buddy. He does much better at Mitla; and just before he tells Natasha goodbye to join his wife in Rome, he absolves himself of his guilt, presumably going on to write a magnum opus. Unfortunately, this is too fragmented and self-involved to be Uris' own magnum opus; nonetheless, it has flashes of dramatic vividness reminiscent of the writer at his Exodus and Trinity best. Read full book review >
THE HAJ by Leon Uris
Released: April 20, 1984

We Arabs are the worst. . . ." That is the theme of this crude propaganda-novel by the author of Exodus, which traces the Palestinian-refugee problem up through 1956—blaming 100 percent of it on the British and the Arabs (Arab greed, decadence, laziness, backwardness, bestiality, etc.), putting the case into the mouths of a few relatively "good" Arabs. The title character is Ibrahim, who becomes the young chieftain of the Palestinian village Tabah in 1922. He feels affection for Gideon Asch, the noble Haganah leader who watches over the nearby kibbutz. ("He respected a fairness in Gideon that he was not able to practice himself.") But, culture-bound and constantly threatened by rival Arab leaders, Ibrahim must reject Gideon's offers of aid and friendship. Meanwhile, Ibrahim's youngest son Ishmael—the off-and-on narrator—is growing up during WW II, only half-brainwashed into Koran-based hatred. ("Why can't Islam share the world with other people?") Then, in 1947, comes the Israeli/Arab warfare: Ben-Gurion vows that "under no circumstances will we force out a single Arab"; for tactical, power-ploy reasons, however, the Arabs force the Palestinian villagers to evacuate—while the wealthy "Palestinian Arab leadership simply abandoned its country in a self-serving manner uncaring of the balance of the population." The Arabs spread false rumors of Jewish atrocities to cause mass flight; the women of Ibrahim's family are raped by rival Arab henchmen. And though the family survives, thanks to Gideon and a "very sympathetic" Irgun officer, their arrival in Arab territory on the West Bank is greeted by Arab disdain, neglect, cruelty. ("The Jews have never done to me and my people what has happened. . . at the hands of our own brothers.") They live in a cave, in refugee camps; "we rotted and complained. . . we became overpowered with self-pity." Israel secretly invites the repatriation of 100,000 Arabs—but the Palestinians become the passive, lazy pawns of ambitious Jordanians, Iraqis, and Egyptians: Ibrahim and other moderates are smeared or assassinated; Ibrahim's older son is murdered by Jordan, then turned into a supposed victim of the Zionists, "the first Palestinian martyr." All UN attempts at bettering the refugee situation are ruined by "tribal avarice." And finally, "no longer able to combat or cope with the evils of our society," Ibrahim slips back into primitivism—hating Israel, killing his daughter for abandoning traditional ways—while young Ishmael ends up in despair, knowing that his "culture" is the villain. . . and that "the Arabs alone have the resources to dissolve their refugee problem, if they wanted to." Are there elements of truth in Uris' anti-Arab version of Palestinian history? Unquestionably. Here, however, presented in a blurred fact/fiction format, his arguments come across as grossly biased, untrustworthy, drenched in bigotry. Gratuitous scenes of Arab sex-and-violence are inserted to remind us that this is a "savage people"; generalizations about the Arab "nature" abound. (Similar remarks about blacks or Jews would probably be considered unpublishable.) Furthermore, simply as storytelling, this is a sad comedown for veteran Uris: the narration is rudimentary, often clumsy; the dialogue is amateurish, riddled with anachronisms; flat little history-lessons are thrown in haphazardly; and there's no real characterization—just illustrations of the defects in Arab culture. In sum: a dreary, ugly lecture/ novel—sure to attract an audience, but likely to embarrass all but the most unthinking Jewish readers. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 2, 1981

Some atmospheric photographs by Mrs. Uris, but otherwise a disaster: uninformed, intemperate, chauvinistic, and altogether embarrassing. Not content with Jerusalem, lifts tries his hand at a splashy, impressionistic history of Israel, from Abraham to Teddy Kollek ("the greatest single person to have benefited Jerusalem since the days of the Bible"). But the results are unfortunate. Consider the following pronouncements: "Rameses II became Hitler in the bunker, a raving madman." (Lifts forgets for the moment that he doesn't believe in the literal truth of the Exodus story.) "Mosaic law . . . will never be improved upon." (Treatment of women?) Alexander the Great was "one of the glamor figures of all history." Jesus was "in his rookie year as a rabbi." (Uris the stylist.) "The main body of Jews rejected Mohammed's divinity." (As did the entire body of Muslims.) "Nothing resembling a democracy has existed or ever will exist in the Arab world. . . . The Arab world has contributed almost nothing in the way of advancement for the human race for a thousand years. Work is not an Arab ethic." (Uris as cultural historian.) One can understand Uris's intense partisan feelings for modern Israel, and one can pardon his careless scissors-and-paste approach to ancient Israel; but his mouthings here are just too much. Read full book review >
TRINITY by Leon Uris
Released: March 5, 1976

With his usual partisan magnanimity, Uris devotes himself to another popular/unpopular lost cause, the Irish, and in particular the Fenian struggle which extended from the mid 19th century to the Easter Monday Uprising of 1916 in all its "Terrible Beauty." The Trinity of the title, according to the publishers, refers to three families (only two are around for most of the book) but surely must be the past, present and future which keeps repeating itself inexorably through the years. Uris' persistently researched and reconstituted history goes even further back with 18th century insets and the potato famine and Parnell and, and, and. Prominent here, not really by virtue of characterization, is Conor Larkin, a crofty whose "hungering to read" leads to considerable knowledge if never enough to escape his Bogside beginnings; then there are the Hubbles and Weeds, affiliated by wealth, their British backgrounds, and marriage, eventually unto Roger Hubble, political major-domo of western Ulster and his "smashing" wife Caroline who can't help but notice the attractive Conor. But he will fall in love with a Scots-Presbyterian girl, an unthinkable liaison in terms of politics and the Church, just as Jeremy Hubble's love for a girl called Molly Rafferty can never be sanctioned. Out of both fact and fiction, spackled with innumerable "Jaysuses" and "Hail Maws," Uris surely will once again achieve that state of grace where doing good is tantamount to doing well. Be it admitted, he keeps his story sturdily self-perpetuating without interrupting its continuity by so much as having to change the ribbon on his typewriter. Read full book review >
TOPAZ by Leon Uris
Released: Oct. 6, 1967

Released: June 15, 1964

With his customary command of fact, and predilection for the times and places that try man's metal, Leon Uris here turns to the subject and story of postwar Berlin in the early stages of occupation. His story is in essence a commemoration of the patriotism of heroes who held the line in a thankless, demanding ordeal as they fought the first Cold War battles against the Communists for the West's foothold in Berlin. Uris starts his book as the war is ending; his Irish American hero Sean O'Sullivan is an officer under General Andrew Jackson Hansen and is preparing for the occupation of Germany, first in England, then on a pilot project in Rombaden. Then comes the real thing, the major task: Berlin. With his two brothers killed by the Germans, Sean battles a great hate which is almost eradicated by his love for Ernestine Falkenstein, the niece of the anti-Nazi German patriot who has returned from a concentration camp to lead his people under the four power occupation as Oberburgermeister of Berlin. But in the end Sean must walk away. The canvas is covered with numerous figures: the Amis who renounce plush, well paying jobs at home to fight the good fight; the Russians of varied stripe from the fanatic Azov to the human Igor Karlovy who sees his German mistress to safety in West Berlin but will not follow for love of his country, to Heinrich Hirsch, who defects out of conscience; the Germans, ranged from resurgent Nazis and Germans broken to Communism to the patriot Falkenstein. Uris carries his story through the Blockade and airlift to 1949, its success and the premise of continued occupation by the West. It is in a sense a story without a definite end, and as Sean fades out, so too will the novel which is strong on background and moments of contact but has little cumulative power. This will attract Uris' established audience but not add to it. A Literary Guild selection. Read full book review >
MILA 18 by Leon Uris
Released: June 16, 1961

The story of the heroic stand of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto against the might of German arms and the depravity of German terrorism has been told unforgettably by John Hersey in The Wall (1950). What is etched forever on memory from that book is the extraordinary depth of psychological perception, as people emerge, larger than life- but with black, white and grey — good and evil- heroism and cowardice — self abnegation and self seeking all giving a note of authenticity that marks it as history rather than story... Uris has chosen, in making central to his story, the same unbelievable proof of man's capacity for suffering and ability to endure and fight and live, to tell it in a broader frame of reference, and to build, on factual details, a tremendous saga of adventure and heroism. Some of his characters, even within the ghetto, fail to meet the challenge; others temporize, excuse their cowardice on grounds of thinking of their families, but Uris never wholly penetrates the conflicts of forces within the people themselves. He simply states the case- develops the facts to prove it. But he has used all of his great gift of story telling to carry the great sweep from August-prior to German invasion of Poland- through the final escape of a mere handful of the freedom fighters from the holocaust that ended the month long defense of the Ghetto. He has tapped primary sources of notes kept at the time and held in the Ghetto Fighters House International Museum; he has interviewed individual survivors of the Ghetto Fighters' Kibbutz in Israel and the Survivors' Association; he has had access to the archives in Jerusalem and elsewhere. And- as he did in Exodus — he has brought history alive in what is indubitably fictionized form, but with the breath of life in the telling. Read full book review >
EXODUS by Leon Uris
Released: Sept. 23, 1958

Nothing less than the history of European Jewry from the end of the last century to the establishment of the state of Israel is the subject of this big novel. The story opens of Cyrpus right after World War II when the British, having declared immigration to Palestine illegal, are interning Jewish DPs in detention camps. Kitty Fremont, an American nurse who has plunged herself into rehabilitation work with war orphans to forget the deaths of her husband and small daughter, and Ari Ben Canaan, a Palestinian agent of the illegal immigration organization, are the two main characters. Ari pulls off his scheme to force the English to let a boatload of children sail for Palestine and Kitty (no lover of the Jews) goes along to be with Karen, a German girl who reminds her of her dead child. Karen loves Dov, a hero of the Warsaw ghetto and a concentration camp graduate. In flashbacks the backgrounds of the children are told as is a brief history of the Polish and German Jews. The reader also learns Ari's story which is primarily the history of his father who, forced to leave Russia, walked to Palestine and in due time established himself as a leader of his people. The love stories of Dov and Karen, Kitty and Ari move against the background of recent years in Israel and there is hardly anything in the way of geography, history, sociology and economics that is left out. The death of Karen by an Arab patrol brings Ari and Kitty together and the book ends on a hopeful note. For all of his lack of the basic literary skills Uris, writing from a hotly partisan viewpoint, has succeeded in welding his material into an effective and dramatic novel that should certainly reach the audience it is aimed at—and probably more besides. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 14, 1955

An overactive adventure tale hustles back and forth between the lines during the German invasion of Greece, down into the Underground- and up against some enemy espionage when Mike Morrison, an uninvolved American, is given an envelope by a lawyer, Stergiou, in Athens to be delivered in London. With the death of Stergiou and his two contacts in Intelligence, who have ordered him to carry on, Mike is caught up in the enemy attack, is sheltered- and nursed- by a Greek peasant girl, and then escorted to Athens by the lovely Lisa, a resistance operator whose children are now in the hands of the Germans and who has been promised their security if she will collaborate. Mike, taken by the Germans, rescued by the Underground, finally bargains for Lisa- and her children, and they escape on a British submarine in time.... The spectacle of attle Cry subsides to a small skirmish of one man's mission which should find a safe conduct largely to the mystery-adventure market. Read full book review >
BATTLE CRY by Leon Uris
Released: April 27, 1953

It's terrific: Perhaps there is less searching for the beast in man than in The Naked and the Dead, less uncovering of basic disillusions than in From Here to Eternity, less integration of plot and character than in The Caine Mutiny, but indubitably it shares some of the greatness of each. Here is a saga of the Marines in World War II, told in terms of a battalion known as "Huxley's Whores" in the Sixth Regiment of the Corps, and specifically of the radio squad. It's raw and tough and unvarnished. Much of the language is filthy (The Caine Mutiny proved our contention that dirt was not necessary to vigor, but the adversary still has his side). Many of the assumptions relating to liquor and sex will offend the tender skinned. But the grandeur of man comes through in spite of it,-his capacity for heroism, his fundamental tenderness towards his fellows, his hero worship and recognition of greatness, his ability to measure up to the best in him. The men of the squad come alive and the reader cares profoundly what happens. The story has episodes of raw humor, originality, drama, tragedy- and "American youth in the crucible of war" is tried and found worthy. The Marines from boot camp to Tarawa- in superb narration. Don't miss it. Read full book review >