A well-conceived, thoughtfully written contribution to Civil War history.

A THOUSAND MAY FALL

LIFE, DEATH, AND SURVIVAL IN THE UNION ARMY

Affecting portrait of an Ohio infantry regiment in the Civil War.

Jordan, a historian who has previously focused on Union veterans in the postwar era, follows a promising and fresh approach by studying the war through the lens of a single unit. In this instance, the 107th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was made up largely of immigrants, one of 30 “ethnically German” regiments in the Union Army. Two prevailing views of Union soldiers have emerged in the literature: one of a tireless and determined force, the other of a battle-weary mob just this side of collapsing. As Jordan demonstrates, neither view is quite correct, and neither is quite wrong. The men he portrays in this account were “betwixt and between, men who belonged but did not”—but who took it as their duty to fight for their new country. Their defeat at Chancellorsville soon led to Gettysburg. “It would be difficult to imagine a worse position than the one the 107th Ohio had been ordered to assume in Gettysburg that afternoon,” writes the author, facing down hardened Rebel fighters in a fixed-bayonet infantry charge. Before these battles, the 107th had endured Ambrose Burnside’s infamous “Mud March” and been elevated in morale by the arrival of Joseph Hooker, who allowed the Ohioans 15-day leaves to accommodate travel west. Not all of them returned to the fight, and many who came back did not survive. At Gettysburg, Jordan writes, “of the 458 men who entered the fight that morning, no more than 171 limped back to Cemetery Hill.” Reflecting the author’s previous scholarly interest, much of the book concerns the final year of the war and the immediate postwar era, when families at home suffered from those losses as well. Movingly, he writes in an epilogue of a reunion of the regiment at Gettysburg, when the men “gripped walking sticks, not rifled muskets” and remembered their fallen brothers in arms.

A well-conceived, thoughtfully written contribution to Civil War history.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-514-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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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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