A captivating look at a singular American figure and the tumultuous history he helped fashion.



A historical account examines Theodore Roosevelt’s quest to prepare the United States for its entry into World War I.

In 1915, the British ocean liner the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat while making its way from New York to Liverpool, killing nearly 1,200 passengers. Roosevelt was enraged by this act of naval aggression and equally furious by what he considered President Woodrow Wilson’s pusillanimous response to it. Roosevelt became obsessed with preparing the nation for war, though the country had neither the men nor the supplies—and perhaps not the funds—for a protracted foreign engagement. Wilson opposed him bitterly and staked his presidency on the attractive combination of peace and prosperity. Roosevelt seriously contemplated a bid for the presidency in 1916, but the GOP was deeply distrustful of him as well as resentful given the way his failed third party bid in 1912 essentially ushered Wilson into office. Pietrusza (1960, 2018, etc.) powerfully captures Roosevelt’s frustration: “He wanted the presidency, craved vindication, fairly lusted for a chance to crush Woodrow Wilson and all his old enemies. But he knew that for all his heroism, he lacked public support, and that fatal defect preyed upon him.” The author provides a remarkably detailed account of the 1916 election and Roosevelt’s indefatigable push for military readiness as well as the emotional toll the war took on him—all four of his sons fought in it, and one lost his life. Pietrusza’s research is magisterially rigorous, swinging expertly from microscopic details to a vivid drawing of a more general tableau. The fulcrum of the book is Roosevelt’s capacious character: his near-comical obsession with the trumpeting of manly virtue, his thunderous economic populism, and his great sensitivity to loss—he had a “significant suicidal streak”—all somehow contained within one man. The author memorably contrasts the former president with Wilson, a man Roosevelt came to deeply loathe, a patrician academic who longed to disentangle the nation from Europe’s savage intramural disputes. Pietrusza clearly harbors an admiration for his subject but avoids any fawning hagiography, though one could argue his depiction of Wilson could be more generous. Further, the author adeptly tracks the transformation of the country’s mood, which gradually moved closer to Roosevelt’s sentiments: disdainful of Wilson’s intrusive foreign policy in the Americas but dispassionately neutral when it came to Europe. Pietrusza’s prose is sharply buoyant and transparent, and the story unfolds almost in novelistic fashion, presented as an electric contest of dominating wills rather than a dry recitation of historical facts. And while the author’s treatment focuses on the run-up to the war, he manages to paint a comprehensive view of Roosevelt’s life and the “sheer bloodlust” of which he was formidably capable. This is a fine scholarly achievement: psychologically searching, scrupulously devoted to accuracy, and dramatically gripping.

A captivating look at a singular American figure and the tumultuous history he helped fashion.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4930-2887-0

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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