Top-notch microcosmic World War II history and an excellent illustration of the immense power of the written word.

AND IN THE VIENNA WOODS THE TREES REMAIN

THE HEARTBREAKING TRUE STORY OF A FAMILY TORN APART BY WAR

Swedish journalist Åsbrink (1947: Where Now Begins, 2018, etc.) offers new information about the founder of IKEA’s Nazi ties, but that is secondary to the engrossing tale of a young Jew in Sweden during World War II.

At first rejecting Otto Ullmann’s daughter’s request to write his story, the author found it as compelling as readers will. Eva Ullmann gave her an IKEA box filled with letters from Otto’s parents dating from 1939, when the 13-year-old was one of 100 children sent to Sweden. The program that enabled him to escape was part of the Swedish Israel Mission, led by Birger Pernow, a pastor who was devoted to converting the Jews and felt that his child relief program would be effective. The plan was to bring 100 children whose parents had good reputations. Otto embarked on Feb. 1, 1939, on the train to Sweden. At first, he and 21 children were taken to a children’s home in Tollarp, and it would be years before he was finally sent out as a farm hand and found friendship. The author then introduces IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad, who grew up the son of a wealthy farmer whose family had immigrated some years before. Otto and Ingvar met and became friends even as Ingvar participated in Nazi causes. Åsbrink expertly exposes Sweden’s tendency toward Nazism at the time, with geographical proximity as well as threats pushing the inclination. Her book, she writes is “an account of Sweden before the country became a ‘good’ one.” Ingvar’s grandmother and father were both devoted Nazis and were thrilled when Hitler took over their former home in the Sudetenland. Meanwhile, Otto was a lost young boy trying to survive and learn a new language. His only support and encouragement came in the form of the more than 500 letters from his family, which the author seamlessly weaves into the narrative. Just as important were the letters they received (now lost) from their son, knowing he was safe.

Top-notch microcosmic World War II history and an excellent illustration of the immense power of the written word.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59051-917-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

21 LESSONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

A highly instructive exploration of “current affairs and…the immediate future of human societies.”

Having produced an international bestseller about human origins (Sapiens, 2015, etc.) and avoided the sophomore jinx writing about our destiny (Homo Deus, 2017), Harari (History/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) proves that he has not lost his touch, casting a brilliantly insightful eye on today’s myriad crises, from Trump to terrorism, Brexit to big data. As the author emphasizes, “humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better. Every person, group, and nation has its own tales and myths.” Three grand stories once predicted the future. World War II eliminated the fascist story but stimulated communism for a few decades until its collapse. The liberal story—think democracy, free markets, and globalism—reigned supreme for a decade until the 20th-century nasties—dictators, populists, and nationalists—came back in style. They promote jingoism over international cooperation, vilify the opposition, demonize immigrants and rival nations, and then win elections. “A bit like the Soviet elites in the 1980s,” writes Harari, “liberals don’t understand how history deviates from its preordained course, and they lack an alternative prism through which to interpret reality.” The author certainly understands, and in 21 painfully astute essays, he delivers his take on where our increasingly “post-truth” world is headed. Human ingenuity, which enables us to control the outside world, may soon re-engineer our insides, extend life, and guide our thoughts. Science-fiction movies get the future wrong, if only because they have happy endings. Most readers will find Harari’s narrative deliciously reasonable, including his explanation of the stories (not actually true but rational) of those who elect dictators, populists, and nationalists. His remedies for wildly disruptive technology (biotech, infotech) and its consequences (climate change, mass unemployment) ring true, provided nations act with more good sense than they have shown throughout history.

Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-51217-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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