Beevor gets better with each book.

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D-DAY

THE BATTLE FOR NORMANDY

The grand Allied invasion of Normandy had myriad ways to go wrong, writes historian Beevor (The Mystery of Olga Chekhova, 2004, etc.) in this skilled account. Miraculously, it did not.

“Everyone in Britain knew that D-Day was imminent,” the author writes, “and so did the Germans.” What kept the Germans from knowing the exact details of the attack is the stuff of legend—and a massive program of disinformation and double-agenting, which Beevor deftly relates. The larger outlines of the story are well-known; historians and journalists from John Keegan to Cornelius Ryan have had their say about the matter. To this Beevor adds sharp observations derived from the archives, among them the unsettling fact that just before the invasion almost every American unit involved was rated “unsatisfactory,” most having never experienced combat before. Fortunately, the Germans across the English Channel were divided in how to respond. As the author notes, Erwin Rommel wanted to concentrate his troops near the landing sites, while his superior officers wanted to assemble a mighty counterattack in the woods north of Paris. Elements of both strategies were hastily assembled as needed, and in either event they cost the Allies plenty. One of the strongest elements of the book is Beevor’s inclusion of sometimes overlooked and discounted actors, including French Resistance forces and veterans of the Polish army who had made their way west, and who told their French counterparts, “You will be liberated…but we will be occupied for years and years.” As the author writes, the Germans had an international army, too, including Cossack forces that were mowed down as they rode into battle. His account of atrocities on both sides, of errors committed and of surpassing bravery makes for excellent—though often blood-soaked—reading.

Beevor gets better with each book.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02119-2

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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...

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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