For war buffs who can’t get enough of Saving Private Ryan.

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THE BEDFORD BOYS

ONE AMERICAN TOWN’S ULTIMATE D-DAY SACRIFICE

By-the-numbers saga of a bruised and bullet-riddled combat unit in WWII.

Embracing only some 3,000 inhabitants, the little Blue Ridge town of Bedford, Virginia, offered few jobs for young men in the last years of the Depression. One source of work was the local National Guard detachment, which, writes journalist Kershaw, “was more akin to a social club than a military unit” and paid only a dollar a day. Still, most of the Bedford boys signed up, and when America entered WWII, they were shipped off to fight as part of the unlucky 116th Infantry, which saw hard combat in Europe. The regiment got chewed up at the Normandy landing, losing 375 men—including 19 of the young men from Bedford, bringing untold suffering to the town, now the site of a national D-Day memorial, for years to come. Kershaw does a reasonably good job of detailing the lives and deaths of these unfortunates, and of gathering the recollections of survivors and kin. Still, the enterprise seems a second-tier offering in the face of the Ambrose/Brokaw industry—and one drenched in clumsy sentimentality at that (“it is not so much in Bedford that the spirits of its lost sons are most palpable, but rather a few hundred yards from the beach where they died, in the American cemetery overlooking Omaha”). Though he has his strong moments, Kershaw misses or underplays a couple of big questions about the experience of fighting a war in the company of neighbors—common enough in the Civil War, but not so common in WWII. And in all events, he knows only two moods: a sepia-toned prewar nostalgia in which the young Guardsmen reveled on beaches “where city girls wore revealing woolen bathing costumes and the Bedford boys would sweet-talk them as they jitter-bugged the night away”—and a scarlet breathlessness evoking scenes of detached eyeballs and “a body with legs off, sometimes just a leg, mangled parts.”

For war buffs who can’t get enough of Saving Private Ryan.

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-306-81167-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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