Alexander (Korea, 1986), in a significant and well-argued contribution to the already massive corpus of Robert E. Lee/Stonewall Jackson scholarship, asserts that ``Stonewall Jackson, not Lee, possessed the strategic vision necessary to win key battles''—and perhaps the Civil War. Douglas Southall Freeman's classic Lee's Lieutenants (1942-46) crystallized the scholarly consensus about Lee and Jackson: Lee was a masterly strategist, perhaps the greatest America has ever produced, while Jackson was a brilliant tactician who lacked the stuff of overall command. Here, however, Alexander argues that Lee prevented Jackson from crossing the Potomac to intimidate Washington and demolish northern industries, and stopped him from destroying Pope's Union army. On at least four occasions, Jackson attempted unsuccessfully to convince Lee and Jefferson Davis ``to mount an invasion of the North and to challenge the will of the Northern people to wage war.'' In reviewing the amazing, though familiar, story of how Jackson bedeviled vastly superior Union forces in the Shenandoah Valley, Alexander demonstrates the striking aggressiveness and creativity of Jackson's strategic vision, and he speculates that, at Chancellorsville, Jackson was fatally wounded just as he was about to ``destroy all or most of the Army of the Potomac and to leave the North powerless to prevent invasion.'' While these speculations about Jackson make for interesting reading, the fact is that Jackson's eccentric and difficult personality marginalized his influence on the strategic planning of the South; moreover, attempted Confederate invasions of the North such as those proposed by Jackson invariably resulted in disaster. Alexander recognizes that neither he nor any other historian can answer the absorbing question of whether the South could have prevailed had Jackson lived, or had it pursued Jackson's more pugnacious strategy, but the author makes a compelling case that Lee's pursuit of limited objectives ultimately assured a Union victory. An enjoyable and thoughtful exercise in ``what if'' history, and a fine reassessment of Jackson's military career. (Sixteen pages of maps.)

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 1992

ISBN: 0-8050-1830-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1992

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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.


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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