A well-told narrative of US participation in the most godawful and useless of modern wars. In 1917, on the eve of its entry into WWI, the US was without a single army division. Nineteen months later, the nation’s armed and naval forces had grown to 4 million people, and their deployment had tipped the balance of war in Europe against the Central Powers. Farwell, a vivid chronicler of military forces, generals, and wars (Armies of the Raj: From Mutiny to Independence, 1989, etc.), here describes that extraordinary build-up of American armed might and what it wrought. It’s hard to imagine a better, and better-written, tale of the US’s first military venture on European soil. What the book lacks in fresh insights or perspective it makes up for in compactness, comprehensiveness, balance, and style. Perhaps never before have so many topics about this Great War been covered with such economy and to such effect. We learn of storied generals and unknown doughboys, preparedness and weaponry, trench warfare and African-Americans in battle, and campaigns and peace maneuvers—as well as the horrors of the battlefront. And we learn of them always with an apt story, a telling statistic, or a sharp portrait’such as of the fabled Sergeant Alvin York or the “Lost Battalion.” It’s regrettable, however, that little of the stupidity and absurdity of war (so brilliantly brought to life in the works of Paul Fussell) finds its place in Farwell’s account.Nevertheless, someone looking for an introduction to this part of American history will find the basics of what should be known in this book. A fine place to go for a narrative history of its subject. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-393-04698-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1998

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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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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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