A mesmerizing study in contrast and comparison.



A bifurcated, lively study of the year that saw the rise of the two most significant political figures of the early 20th century.

In previous books, historian Pietrusza has taken on momentous years (1948: Harry Truman's Improbable Victory and the Year that Transformed America, 2011, etc.). In this wonderful new history for lay readers, he tackles two rising political geniuses, one good, one evil, at their moments of election: Roosevelt and Hitler. Two unlikely men of destiny at the cusp of seizing power in 1932 and poised to shape historical events in their respective countries, they were able to overcome enormous obstacles—FDR his polio affliction, Hitler his lack of talent and general status of persona non grata—corral the necessary accomplices, and press forward by sheer and startling forces of will. While FDR and Hitler had little in common growing up—one hailed from the aristocracy and enjoyed every kind of family, school, and professional privilege; the other failed at most everything he tried, even spending time in a homeless men’s shelter—both had adoring mothers, leadership abilities, and an ability to stir their followers by marvelous rhetoric. After struggling with his disability since the early 1920s, FDR did not feel ready to run for the governorship of New York in 1928, but his nominating presidential convention speech for Al Smith galvanized the Democratic Party, and Smith begged him to succeed him as governor. While Smith lost abysmally to Herbert Hoover, Roosevelt “squeaked through to a narrow victory” and began his stupendous comeback, convincing the people of his vigorous health as well as the disastrous policies of Hoover. Hitler, having hit rock bottom once his mother died and twice rejected entrance to art school, found his conversion in World War I. As the author astutely notes, war became for Hitler a religion, and he began to cobble together his own lethal, unstoppable political force.

A mesmerizing study in contrast and comparison.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7627-9302-0

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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