A wrenching story. No one who reads it will question again why Korea is never evoked when our nation’s military past is put...




A wartime slaughter just waiting to happen, and then did—costing hundreds of innocent civilian lives—is unspooled here in all its misery, by the investigative AP reporters who won a Pulitzer for breaking the story.

Korea, July 1950. North Korean troops were pushing south, routing the green American soldiers—peacetime pickets from the occupation army in Japan hustled over for a “police action”—and their inexperienced officers. When rumors started to circulate that the North Koreans were infiltrating American lines by donning the white garb of civilians, orders were given to stop any refugee columns from passing through front lines. This meant that aircraft could strafe civilian columns and that soldiers could open fire on them. And they did, in one case with particular vengeance, at the bridge at No Gun Ri, where about 400 women, children, and old men were killed over a three-day period. The authors have put together the story from military logs and memos (“The Army has requested that we strafe all civilian parties that are noted approaching our positions. . . . we have complied with the Army request”) and from interviews with survivors, both GIs and Koreans. In crisp and forceful prose, the authors explain the roots of the Korean debacle: how Cold War politicos found Korea “a symbolic battleground of ideologies”; how a broad streak of racism wound its way through American military thinking; how the reactionary Syngman Rhee turned the country into a theater of fear; and, worst of all, how No Gun Ri, like My Lai, was only the tip of the civilian-killing, scorched-earth iceberg. It was the conflict that dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s when it came to posttraumatic stress disorder.

A wrenching story. No one who reads it will question again why Korea is never evoked when our nation’s military past is put on display.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-6658-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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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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