A top-notch addition to the literature on the Korean War.

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GHOST FLAMES

LIFE AND DEATH IN A HIDDEN WAR, KOREA 1950-1953

A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist forges a masterly new history of the Korean War through character studies of the participants caught in the conflict.

During his 40-year career at the Associated Press, Hanley reported from nearly 100 countries around the world, and his journalistic talents are on full display in his latest book. He also demonstrates a novelist’s touch and a wonderful ear for dialogue and detail. He builds his history via observers’ testimonies about the war, from the initial invasion of South Korea by North Korean troops on June 25, 1950, to the stunning “morning of silent guns” on July 28, 1953. The characters Hanley chooses to highlight aptly represent the diversity of people involved, from refugees and soldiers on both sides to U.S. military leaders like Matthew Ridgway, appointed Far East commander by Harry Truman after certain miscalculations by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. In countless poignant snapshots, the author describes harrowing, often horrific experiences, including those of Sister Mary Mercy at a clinic in Pusan, where “sanitation is abysmal and disease endemic,” and “existing facilities fall far short of what’s needed to deal with the typhoid, typhus, smallpox, and tuberculosis spreading through the refugee population”; and South Korean AP journalist Bill Shinn, who tried to cover the conflict while protecting his family. Elsewhere, Hanley discusses numerous witnesses to the horrendous retaliation by both North and South Korean troops in terms of executions and mass burials as well as American troops’ “depravity” in torturing and raping the local population. The author also details the conditions at the POW camps, including Pyoktong, where a black American soldier endured not only an existence of “simple misery,” but also racist taunts from fellow American soldiers in the camp. In addition to excellent maps and a chronology, Hanley provides photos of the characters and an “After the War” section about each of them. The accretion of astounding detail makes for a vivid, multilayered look at a deeply complicated war in which few emerged as heroic.

A top-notch addition to the literature on the Korean War.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-6817-8

Page Count: 528

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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