THE FALL OF BERLIN

A kaleidoscopic portrait of the last days of the Nazi Reich, narrated in the best apocalyptic style by British historian/journalists Read and Fisher (Kristallnacht, 1989, etc.). The bloody final days of the bloodiest European war in history provide a spectacle that, in its stupefyingly tragic depth, could have overwhelmed a Tolstoy—although Read and Fisher manage to hold up pretty well. They set their scene carefully, starting in 1936 with the opening of the Olympic games in Berlin and guiding us along the complex route that led inexorably to the eruption of war three years later. This is preeminently a history of the German capital (rather than of the German nation) during wartime, and, as such, it possesses a clarity of focus that few other accounts of the war have achieved. As Read and Fisher see them, the Berliners as a whole were vastly unenthusiastic about Hitler and his war, suspecting from the start that the Nazis were gambling with their lives. Hitler himself seems to have requited their affections in full: For all of his grandiose dreams of rebuilding the capital into an imperial showplace, the FÅhrer obviously hated Berlin and (until the end of the war) never stayed there more than a few days at a time. When the Nazi regime finally collapsed, its end was just as Wagnerian as its rhetoric had been, and it is here that Read and Fisher manage best to convey the tenor and shape of the war's intrusion into urban life: the endless procession of refugees; the increasing chaos and lawlessness; the progressive disappearance of basic goods and amenities—and, in the midst of everything, the insane survival of Germanic traits of loyalty and duty, which led thousands to die for a doomed cause they had long since lost faith in. Splendidly researched and admirably constructed, this stands as one of the best accounts yet of the war and its terrible toll.

Pub Date: April 26, 1993

ISBN: 0-393-03472-0

Page Count: 524

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1993

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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