From a perspective little known to Americans, a masterful account of how and why World War II began.


JAPAN 1941


An Asian specialist examines the reasons behind the riskiest military venture in Japan’s history.

Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor and begin a war it had virtually no chance of winning? In this focused, informed and persuasive book, Hotta (Pan-Asianism and Japan’s War, 1931-45, 2007) explains the cultural forces at work and the political, economic, diplomatic and military issues that occupied the government in the years, and especially the months, preceding December 7, 1941. Without in any way excusing or justifying the officials who made the momentous decision to begin an entirely “preventable and unwinnable” war, she sympathetically tells the story of leaders maneuvered into a strategic box, albeit one largely of their own making, from which war appeared the only escape. Among Hotta’s many sensitive portraits: the young Emperor Hirohito; Prime Minister Tojo (not the bloodthirsty dictator of American propaganda) and the fatally indecisive Prince Konoe who preceded him; Adm. Yamamoto, architect of the Pearl Harbor attack; Matsuoka, the longtime foreign minister; and Nomura, ambassador to the United States. Lending depth to her narrative, the author includes sketches of lesser figures like the novelist Kafu, author of an incisive diary about public events, and the brilliant and eccentric Kuroshima, Yamamoto’s premier strategist. Already weary from a long war with China, with rice rationed and the public kept largely clueless about the government’s machinations, the nation’s leaders paused. Nevertheless, with the cultural imperative of consensus masking intraservice rivalries and deep divisions among the military and political classes, with the racism and imperialism of Western powers painfully rankling, with the desire for national greatness fueling a reckless expansionism, Japan gambled on a war where success depended almost entirely on forces outside its control. The impressively credentialed Hotta effortlessly returns us to the moment just before the dice were so disastrously rolled.

From a perspective little known to Americans, a masterful account of how and why World War II began.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-59401-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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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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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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