A fresh, readable look at events and players that, though well-known to history, deserve to be studied for some time to come.

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HOW CHURCHILL BROUGHT ENGLAND BACK FROM THE BRINK

On the forging of the wartime Winston Churchill, a figure iconic to this day, in the crucible of events that took place in the spring of 1940.

That Churchill was a gifted writer and speechmaker is well-known; that he drank alcohol by the bucket is not news, either. In this work of popular history, a tie-in to a forthcoming film, screenwriter and novelist McCarten (Death of a Superhero, 2007, etc.) does venture a novel thesis along the way: that in May 1940, Churchill was prepared to strike a peace deal with Hitler, “as utterly repugnant as that idea might now seem.” Admitting that the thesis is both conjectural and unpopular, the author buttresses it with an argument that seems reasonable, if one that academic historians would likely refute. In the end, of course, Churchill chose instead to stand and fight. McCarten does good service by showing how Churchill used his pen to advance Britain’s cause; the author engages in a highly useful sort of rhetorical analysis that examines Churchill’s use of repeated words, phrases, and motifs and his subtle reference to other classic addresses and essays: “In stark contrast to Hitler’s egomaniacal speeches—which emphasized the word ‘I’—Churchill…knew the power of ‘We’ when exhorting the British public to take up such a fearful struggle.” McCarten sometimes seems to go a bridge too far, as with an invented dialogue between Churchill and Lord Halifax, but his reasoning is generally sound. His study is also timely given not just his own film, but also the recent release of Christopher Nolan’s film Dunkirk, recounting a key event that led to Churchill’s famous “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets” speech, by which he aimed “to give voice to the people of Britain.” Churchill succeeded admirably, and so, in the main, does McCarten.

A fresh, readable look at events and players that, though well-known to history, deserve to be studied for some time to come.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-274952-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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