There have been plenty of books—perhaps too many—about Churchill, but very few that mention his work as a writer in more...

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IN COMMAND OF HISTORY

CHURCHILL FIGHTING AND WRITING THE SECOND WORLD WAR

History, the adage has it, is written by the victors. That’s nowhere more true than in the matter of Winston Churchill, the self-aware subject of this engaging study.

Churchill, notes Reynolds (History/Cambridge Univ.), was foremost a writer and journalist, long accustomed to making his living by his pen and wits; even while in office, though mostly in peacetime, he added to his reputation and purse by writing biographies and histories. He was also accustomed to living well: “My tastes are simple,” he once said. “I like only the best,” and he spent fortunes on cigars and drink, on an elegant country house and a London apartment. Voted out of office at the close of WWII, Churchill took the occasion to write his magisterial, two-million-word history of the conflict, which took eight years and involved a small army of assistants. Moreover, he did so without paying the ruinous 97.5 percent income tax that someone of his level should have paid, thanks to the wiles of lawyers and agents; altogether, his earnings may have equaled 50 million in today’s dollars. Lightly taxed money was one thing: As Reynolds carefully demonstrates, Churchill had other motivations in taking on the massive project, including rehabilitating his reputation in the wake of electoral defeat and casting the war in terms that would serve the Anglo-American alliance in the quickening Cold War. Thus, Reynolds shows, examining various drafts of the history, Churchill revised the record to eliminate his account of how American diplomats “very nearly danced for joy” on hearing of the attack on Pearl Harbor and to improve his performance at places such as Yalta and Potsdam—sometimes, as Reynolds writes, being “economical with the truth” in the process.

There have been plenty of books—perhaps too many—about Churchill, but very few that mention his work as a writer in more than passing. Reynolds adds considerably to our understanding of the British leader.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2005

ISBN: 0-679-45743-7

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2005

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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

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