An intensely focused account that cuts through the battle’s sprawl and duration, supplying the general reader with an...




A military reporter examines the climax of “the longest and deadliest naval conflict in world history.”

Allied plans for a Britain-based amphibious assault on the European continent, not to mention the very survival of the United Kingdom, depended on unharried use of the North Atlantic’s shipping lanes, lifeline to the United States and its vast supplies. In March 1943, Grossadmiral Karl Dönitz suddenly stepped up the attacks of his deadly U-boats. Striking day or night, the German submarines posed a critical threat to the merchant convoys and, consequently, to the outcome of World War II. Offley (Scorpion Down: Sunk by the Soviets, Buried by the Pentagon, 2007, etc.) meticulously re-creates the terrifying U-boat assaults during this pivotal spring (generous appendices help the reader keep track of the chessboard) and explains how the Allies turned the tide of the years-long battle. Improved tactics (more escort warships, more Liberator bombers, a shift from merely fending off subs to aggressively pursuing them), advances in technology (sonar, ship-based radar, high-frequency direction finding, air-dropped acoustic homing torpedoes, air-to-surface rockets launched by carrier-based aircraft), command of the cryptologic conflict, breaking the German naval Enigma code, even the vagaries of the notoriously severe North Atlantic weather—all accounted for the permanent advantage the Allies finally seized. As he traces these developments, the author enlivens the narrative with telling detail: a glimpse of life aboard the cramped and foul U-boats, a sample of hortatory messages from Dönitz to his fleet, accounts of merchant mariners who survived the torpedoes, estimates by U-boat commanders that inflated their kills, decisions by rogue captains to abandon the convoys, the war-game results of a lowly Admiralty captain that persuaded Churchill to shift more resources to the Atlantic. The fight would continue for another two years, but with a hoped-for new generation of subs and weapons never materializing, the Germans could no longer contemplate victory.

An intensely focused account that cuts through the battle’s sprawl and duration, supplying the general reader with an appreciation of its character and importance.

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-465-01397-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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...


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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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