An eye-opening account of a national disaster that has been all but forgotten, as well as a shameful spotlight on the...

THE THOUSAND-YEAR FLOOD

THE OHIO-MISSISSIPPI DISASTER OF 1937

The story of the worst flood in American history and how it overwhelmed the Ohio river valley and much of the lower Mississippi in January and February 1937.

Writing that “the 1937 flood is a catastrophe lost to historians,” Welky (Univ. of Central Arkansas; The Moguls and the Dictators: Hollywood and the Coming of World War II, 2008, etc.) exposes the weaknesses in the Army Corps of Engineers’ approach to river management, many of which were known at the time. Had lessons been learned then, perhaps later disasters might have been avoided or had less-catastrophic results. The entire 981-mile length of the Ohio River was above flood stage at one point, along with tributaries from Pennsylvania to Illinois. Water surged 15 feet above previous records, covered 15,000 miles of highway and disrupted rail traffic across the eastern United States. Nearly 400 people died, and more than 1 million were forced to evacuate their homes. By the time of FDR's second inauguration, the flood was in full swing and was mentioned briefly in a radio address on January 30th, when the president called for a “national effort on a national scale…to decrease the probability of future floods and disasters.” Welky reviews the history of the process by which the Army Corps of Engineers institutionalized its role as the lead agency in river management. He argues that the Corps' insistence on building levees and floodways contributed to the scale of the disaster by channeling and accelerating the flood waters which easily over-topped the levees of towns across the valley. Unfortunately, nothing ever came of FDR's vision of a national-resources council to coordinate all aspects of river-basin management.

An eye-opening account of a national disaster that has been all but forgotten, as well as a shameful spotlight on the short-sightedness of humans in the face of the awesome powers of nature.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-226-88716-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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

1776

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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