A bland and frustratingly abstract examination that emphasizes theoretical concepts, paying scant attention to specific people, places, and events. Ponting (Politics/Univ. of Wales; Armageddon: The Reality Behind the Distortions, Myths, Lies, and Illusions of World War II, 1995), argues that a few “core” states (e.g., the US, Britain, and Germany) have asserted their economic and military power to dominate the rest of the world’s “periphery” and “semi-periphery” states. He views the 20th century as a continual, and largely predetermined, struggle between the few powerful “haves” and the majority of powerless “have-nots.” After discussing the demise of colonialism, Ponting shifts to the contemporary reality of unregulated global corporations exploiting cheap labor and material resources around the globe. Ponting also cites problems of overpopulation, especially in Africa, and the related crisis of the world environment. While Ponting’s analysis is difficult to deny, it’s hardly groundbreaking. In discussing the global environment, for instance, he invokes the usual litany of cautionary tales: Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island, Bhopal, Love Canal, and the Brazilian rainforest. What Ponting notably neglects to discuss is how the solutions to global environmental problems will inevitably conflict with basic concepts of individualism and nationalism. In discussing the growing levels of economic inequality among and within nations, Ponting exhausts the reader with a barrage of statistics. (Do we really need to know the rate of automobile ownership in Qatar?) At times, Ponting’s conceptual approach results in bloodless, academic prose. Personalities are almost completely absent. That said, Ponting is outstanding when discussing the most important trend of the post—Cold War world: the destabilizing resurgence of nationalism. Now, more than ever, we exist in a world of regional alliances, confusing ethnic conflicts, and nationalist fervor. The Balkans, always a stew of ethnic and nationalist rivalries, has reemerged as “the tinderbox of Europe.” Other than his highly relevant discussion of the “new” nationalism, Ponting’s conceptual analysis offers little that’s edifying.

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-6088-X

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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