Not a page-turner, but Atkinson’s balanced account justly gives its heroines their due and captures the jolly spirit with...

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ELSIE AND MAIRI GO TO WAR

TWO EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN ON THE WESTERN FRONT

History of the only two women permitted on the military front during World War I.

Women’s-labor historian Atkinson (Love and Dirt: The Marriage of Arthur Munby and Hannah Cullwick, 2004, etc.) tells the impressive life stories of Elsie Knocker and Mairi Gooden-Chisholm. Elsie was a 30-year-old divorcee in 1914 when she left her seven-year-old son with her parents and convinced her motorcycling companion Mairi to join the war effort. Mairi was an 18-year-old tomboy from a good Scottish family that moved in royal circles. Her mother was horrified when Mairi followed Elsie to the Women’s Emergency Corps headquarters in London, where they were recruited by the liberal Dr. Hector Munro for his Flying Ambulance Corps. What began as a post shuttling wounded Belgian soldiers from the battlefield soon became a legacy of work for which they received numerous medals and international fame. The mercurial Elsie liked to be in charge, so she and Mairi, whose more even-keel temperament was a necessary complement, set up their own first-aid post at Pervyse, in northern Belgium. In addition to providing food and friendship, they treated wounded Belgian soldiers on or near the battlefield before carting them to hospitals miles away. This approach, now standard in EMT practice, combined with their perseverance and fundraising savvy, allowed them to become wartime media darlings, the “Angels of Pervyse.” Visits from King Albert and Marie Curie and Elsie’s second marriage to a Belgian Baron added to the element of glamour that marked their lives in Pervyse. Still, they endured the less-exciting experiences of treating venereal boils, bandaging mangled faces and making due without plentiful supplies of food and water. Their foreign service ended in 1918, when the Germans gassed their post twice, to devastating effect, and both women returned to Britain.

Not a page-turner, but Atkinson’s balanced account justly gives its heroines their due and captures the jolly spirit with which they carried out their work.

Pub Date: June 15, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-60598-094-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Borderland/Ivan Dee

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2010

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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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