Readers certainly won’t be bored, but they’ll find a richer, more comprehensive account in George Feifer’s Tennozan: The...

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THE ULTIMATE BATTLE

OKINAWA 1945—THE LAST EPIC STRUGGLE OF WORLD WAR II

A history of the battle of Okinawa, from investigative reporter Sloan (Brotherhood of Heroes: The Marines at Peleliu, 1944—The Bloodiest Battle of the Pacific War, 2005, etc.).

Okinawa’s Japanese commander decided not to defend the beaches for the logical reason that earlier attempts on other islands had failed in the face of overwhelming naval firepower. His 110,000 troops retreated to the island’s mountainous southern third, where they constructed dense interlocking fortifications including elaborate underground tunnels and living quarters. American forces also learned from earlier battles. Previous bombardments had left defenses largely intact, so Okinawa received the greatest pounding in history, which devastated civilians and literally demolished Okinawan culture but hardly touched Japanese defenses. Landing April 1, the Americans were amazed at the absence of resistance. A week passed before they encountered the enemy and launched nearly three months of brutal fighting during which 107,000 Japanese and 12,000 Americans died—the United States’s greatest loss in any battle during World War II. Since the Japanese were defending a remote section of the island, far from the critical airfields, readers may wonder why U.S. leaders didn’t simply seal off the area and allow the already starving defenders to wither. The author reminds us more than once that Okinawa’s stout defense convinced U.S. leaders that invading Japan proper, scheduled for November, would cost massive casualties. Sharing this belief, soldiers breathed a sigh of relief upon hearing of the atom bomb. Writing from the American point of view, Sloan pays less attention to Japanese military actions and to Okinawans, who died in greater numbers than both combatants. Like many popular historians, the author can’t resist enlivening a story that needs little dramatization—though some of the veterans’ stories are compelling.

Readers certainly won’t be bored, but they’ll find a richer, more comprehensive account in George Feifer’s Tennozan: The Battle of Okinawa and the Dropping of the Atomic Bomb (1992).

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7432-9246-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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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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