There’s not much news here, but fans of Sharpe, Aubrey, Bezukhov, and the like will appreciate Zamoyski’s vivid...




In which the famed French emperor seals his doom by marching headlong into a country that would not be tamed.

Polish historian Zamoyski (Holy Madness, 2000, etc.) has an eye for irony, and though he does not specifically point out parallels, the French invasion of Russia in 1812 finds echoes in current events. His aides warned Napoleon not to invade, fearing that while the French army was distracted, subject states across Europe would take the occasion to revolt. Alexander, the Russian tsar, had warned a French diplomat that “if it came to war he would go on fighting, in the depths of Russia if necessary, and would never sign a peace dictated to him in his capital,” and it was evident before the war began that partisan forces and the weather could combine to do more damage than any Russian army. Still, Napoleon decided to take the battle to Russia, citing threats that did not appear to have much basis in fact. He must have thought he could beat the Russian army, which was made up of mostly non-Russian officers commanding a force of men who were all but serfs under arms: as Zamoyski writes with characteristic attention to detail, a Russian private’s enlistment term was for 25 years, and his family was likely to write him off as dead the moment the induction notice came; whenever possible, it seemed, Russian soldiers deserted by the drove. Yet the Russians stood and fought, as they always did when their homeland was threatened; as Zamoyski writes, the Battle of Borodino alone was “the greatest massacre in recorded history, not to be surpassed until the first day of the Somme in 1916.” And then there was the winter, of course, which trimmed the French army logarithmically even as Napoleon decided to resort to Plan B: “He resolved to hasten back to Paris, where he would raise a new army in time to sally forth in the spring and not only reassert his control over central Europe but also defeat the Russians.”

There’s not much news here, but fans of Sharpe, Aubrey, Bezukhov, and the like will appreciate Zamoyski’s vivid reconstruction of events.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-107558-2

Page Count: 672

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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