A work of vast research, depth and insight—perhaps too vast for some readers.

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THE SECOND WORLD WAR

Beevor (D-Day, 2009, etc.) joins the ranks of other contemporary British historians to tackle the entire war in one volume—e.g., Andrew Roberts (The Storm of War) and Gordon Corrigan (The Second World War).

All three books move chronologically, with Roberts grouping by driving themes (“Onslaught, Climacteric, Retribution”), Corrigan by military theaters (the Russian, the Asian and so on) and Beevor by more numerous, geographically detailed conflicts. The result here can be stultifying in its richness of detail, but Beevor makes blazingly vivid the sense of mass upheaval and grief prevalent in all parts of the world. The author’s coverage of the East Asian conflicts is masterful, and he emphasizes early on the key skirmish in August 1939 between Soviet commander Georgi Zhukov’s forces and the Japanese at Nomonhan in Outer Mongolia, in which the Soviets repulsed the Japanese in an appalling massacre. Stalin received Zhukov as a hero, while the Japanese made the portentous non-aggression pact with Stalin just before Operation Barbarossa and moved instead against France, the Netherlands, Britain and the U.S. Navy. Beevor’s knowledge of Crete, occupied Paris, Stalingrad and Berlin infuses these segments with particular nuance, though some readers may wish he had devoted more space to each. Throughout, the author remains cognizant of the brutalization of civilians, including the systematic rape of women. In his chapter on the Nazi extermination camps, he focuses on the account of Rudolf Höss, commandant of Auschwitz, to demonstrate how ordinary the day-to-day horror had become. Eisenhower’s decision not to take Berlin—too many casualties—was “the correct decision even if for the wrong reason,” Beevor writes, because Stalin would never have allowed it. While the author hurriedly wraps up the endgame, the majority of the narrative is a deeply enlightening experience.

A work of vast research, depth and insight—perhaps too vast for some readers.

Pub Date: June 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-02374-0

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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