Excellent and essential.




A richly detailed examination of the military and civilian leaders of Britain and America during World War II.

Just before Franklin Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, when Nazi Germany had all but collapsed, U.S. military commander George C. Marshall wrote, “Our greatest triumph really lies in the fact that we achieved the impossible, Allied military unity of action.” Schooled in the wars of the 19th century and the trenches of WWI, Marshall shared military background but little else with his British counterpart, Alan Brooke. In 1942, the American newcomers to the European theater found that, even after defeats nearly every time British forces met German ones on the ground, the British general staff was not inclined to have former colonials in command. Fantastic rows ensued as both the British and the American armies aligned command structures closely enough to cooperate in battle. It cost the British leadership considerable effort to convince American counterparts that the war in North Africa was not a sideshow, while the Americans believed that the British were “viscerally opposed to any cross-Channel operation ever taking place,” all the way up to D-Day and the Normandy landings. Even very late in the war, Roberts (A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, 2007, etc.) notes, those leaders sharply disagreed on matters of both strategy and tactics. Yet amazingly, Marshall, Churchill, Roosevelt and Brooke developed an effective partnership in the West. Historians disinclined to the Great Man school of historical writing may object to the notion, but clearly powerful personalities and no small degree of luck were involved. Roberts’s narrative sometimes reads like an exercise in game theory, with each player trying to secure maximum advantage without ending the game or, worse, losing all. His book will be of value to students not just of military history, but also diplomacy, business and other endeavors requiring negotiation.

Excellent and essential.

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-122857-5

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2009

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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