A wealth of stories of gruesome infection, lack of health care, and further transmission. A well-researched but ugly history...




Arnold (Globe: Life in Shakespeare's London, 2015, etc.) collects global eyewitness accounts of Spanish flu, clearly illustrating why it caused more deaths than World War I.

The virus began in early 1918 and wreaked havoc around the world until summer 1919. It was considered a bacterial infection, and few questioned it since other diseases—e.g., cholera and plague—were bacterial. The modern concept of the virus was unknown in 1918, and the world war helped to create a perfect storm of factors that fed the virus. A massive military base in northern France housed a port, railway yards, stores, prisons, training areas, stables, and piggeries as well as areas to house ducks, geese, and chickens to feed the army. Ducks were a reservoir for bird flu viruses, and their feces would be absorbed by the other animals that were kept for food. Nearby was a general hospital, and 100 trains per day brought wounded from the front to be treated by up to 10,000 medical staff. This was where the first case appeared. The wounded were repatriated or returned to the front, carrying the disease throughout Europe. In America, a case appeared on a Kansas farm, and then an overcrowded Army camp in Kansas witnessed outbreak. The first appearances were spotty; most patients recovered, and it vanished as quickly as it appeared. Not so the second wave in the summer, as the author amply shows, when it struck with a deadly virulence. Any large gathering was potentially deadly, including massive troop movements, bond drives, and victory parades not to mention troop ships, which became floating incubators. It was an unusual flu in that it arrived in summer rather than winter and struck the young and fit rather than the old and infirm. By the time it passed, it had killed one-third of the world’s population.

A wealth of stories of gruesome infection, lack of health care, and further transmission. A well-researched but ugly history that may fatigue readers by the end.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-13943-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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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