The subtitle is a stretch, but the densely plotted narrative is sure to please military aficionados.

British novelist (Silesian Station, 2008, etc.) and military historian Downing focuses on three decisive weeks in 1941—from Nov. 17 to Dec. 8—leading to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The author intertwines the stories of three risky military maneuvers on the part of the Germans and the Japanese that would ultimately “seal the fate” of the aggressors—though it would take four more years for the Allies to achieve victory. Germany’s Operation Barbarossa invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 in a spectacular display of might, but by November was scuttled by cold weather, Russian resistance, lack of supplies and sinking morale. In North Africa, General Erwin Rommel and his Panzers were beating back incursions by British forces, though badly needed German munitions were being siphoned off to the Eastern Front. Because of Barbarossa, the earlier German successes in Libya, Greece and Crete were weakened, keeping them from adequately disrupting the British supply routes in Malta and around the Suez Canal. In the Pacific, the Japanese air fleet was well on its way toward a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor at the same time that American and Japanese diplomats were wrangling over initiatives on the Japanese war in China. Although the Americans had cracked the Japanese diplomatic code and knew vaguely of Japanese military intentions, Secretary of State Cordell Hull was stalling for time, since the U.S. armed forces needed a few more months to prepare for war. Adeptly juxtaposing Japanese vainglory—Japan did not possess the might or resources to win a war against the Allies—with American bungling, Downing offers a dark, captivating hindsight analysis with plenty of action.

The subtitle is a stretch, but the densely plotted narrative is sure to please military aficionados.

Pub Date: June 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-306-81620-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009


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


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Close Quickview