An intense focus on the human side of war but marred by weak writing and unoriginal characters.

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THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE

THE EIGHTH AIRFORCE SERIES

Pula’s (With Courage and Honor, 2010, etc.) first foray into fiction chronicles the lives of a group of World War II bombers in the Air Force.

The first volume in a series, the novel explores the early military careers of two aspiring pilots. The story opens as quiet but brilliant 2nd Lt. Matthew Moore, part Native American, is accosted by a group of white officers who have learned that he is engaged to a white woman. Though gigantic in stature, gentle Matt is severely wounded by a knife in the struggle; he’s saved from death by fellow pilot-in-training 1st Lt. Jack Harrington, who runs off the racist mob and ensures Matt receives proper treatment at the base hospital. The two become fast friends and help each other train to fly the B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. After only a short time, Jack is honored to become Matt’s best man, while Matt helps Jack overcome his grief after receiving a Dear John letter from his sweetheart back home. Though filled with technical details regarding the Air Force during World War II, the novel is more focused on the men preparing for battle. The author delves into the characters backstories with varying degrees of success: Results are often interesting, although certain players are reduced to stock characters. The author skillfully folds historical details into the narrative. Especially effective is a scene involving a survivor from the fall of Warsaw and the Nazi death camps. Unfortunately, the protagonists come across too sickly sweet or squeaky clean—in fact, nearly all the characters are extremely attractive, without vices and with pure motivations. Furthermore, clichéd romantic scenes involving Matt and his wife, Evelyn, feel out of place with the rest of the text. The prose can be clunky and repetitive; when introduced, each character is described by hair color, height and weight. What does shine, though, is the author’s love for her subjects. Pula makes an admirable attempt at examining how men so young dealt with the responsibility of liberating Europe and destroying Nazi Germany, despite coming from a country that was often inhospitable.

An intense focus on the human side of war but marred by weak writing and unoriginal characters.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-1935122296

Page Count: 348

Publisher: Whitehall Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2012

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A well-documented and enlightened portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt for our times.

ELEANOR

A LIFE

A comprehensive exploration of one of the most influential women of the last century.

The accomplishments of Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) were widespread and substantial, and her trailblazing actions in support of social justice and global peace resonate powerfully in our current moment. Her remarkable life has been extensively documented in a host of acclaimed biographies, including Blanche Wiesen Cook’s excellent three-volume life. Eleanor was also a highly prolific writer in her own right; through memoirs, essays, and letters, she continuously documented experiences and advancing ideas. In the most expansive one-volume portrait to date, Michaelis offers a fresh perspective on some well-worn territory—e.g., Eleanor’s unconventional marriage to Franklin and her progressively charged relationships with men and women, including her intimacy with newspaper reporter Lorena Hickok. The author paints a compelling portrait of Eleanor’s life as an evolving journey of transformation, lingering on the significant episodes to shed nuance on her circumstances and the players involved. Eleanor’s privileged yet dysfunctional childhood was marked by the erratic behavior and early deaths of her flighty, alcoholic father and socially absorbed mother, and she was left to shuttle among equally neglectful relatives. During her young adulthood, her instinctual need to be useful and do good work attracted the attention of notable mentors, each serving to boost her confidence and fine-tune her political and social convictions, shaping her expanding consciousness. As in his acclaimed biography of Charles Schulz, Michaelis displays his nimble storytelling skills, smoothly tracking Eleanor’s ascension from wife and mother to her powerfully influential and controversial role as first lady and continued leadership and activist efforts beyond. Throughout, the author lucidly illuminates the essence of her thinking and objectives. “As Eleanor’s activism evolved,” writes Michaelis, “she did not see herself reaching to solve social problems so much as engaging with individuals to unravel discontinuities between the old order and modernity.”

A well-documented and enlightened portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt for our times.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9201-6

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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