Despite a little confusion regarding the movements of divisions and brigades, this is a fascinating, detailed, and...

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WATERLOO

THE HISTORY OF FOUR DAYS, THREE ARMIES, AND THREE BATTLES

In his first nonfiction book, acclaimed historical novelist Cornwell (The Empty Throne, 2015, etc.) employs his storytelling skills to bring military history out of the textbook.

The author writes of the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s loss (as opposed to the Duke of Wellington’s victory) in a readable account that only occasionally gets bogged down in tactics and the movements of brigades. Early on, he points out that we must understand the difference between infantry arrayed in either lines or columns since it made a considerable difference in the outcome of the battles fought on those June days in 1815. The Dutch and Germans combined with the British under Wellington; this was not a particularly pleasant circumstance, as Wellington had little faith in their ability or loyalty. He placed them carefully with his most effective fighters and did his best to keep Prince William of the Netherlands, or Slender Billy, from creating the disastrous confusion for which he was known. Two preliminary battles, at Ligny and Quatre-Bras, could have given France success, but miscommunication and outright dithering on the part of Napoleon’s commander Michel Ney enabled the opposing forces to fight on. Throughout the battle, there were many instances of generals making their own decisions that affected the outcome—perhaps none more than the Prussian Prince Blücher, who retreated to the north rather than west to maintain his ability to relieve Wellington, thus confounding Napoleon’s attempt to split the armies. The French were weakened in an attempt to take Wellington’s right flank at Hougoumont, where just over 2,000 Dutch, German, and English soldiers held off 9,000 French infantry.

Despite a little confusion regarding the movements of divisions and brigades, this is a fascinating, detailed, and generously illustrated description of the battle that changed the fate of 19th-century Europe.

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-231205-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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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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