Lowbrow history, but a gripping story of admirable men.




Another stirring account of American Special Forces heroics.

After 9/11, America could not rush a conventional army into Afghanistan to wreak vengeance on al-Qaeda, so it sent elite Special Forces teams. In Horse Soldiers (2009), Doug Stanton chronicled the soldiers who assisted Northern Alliance forces in crushing the Taliban. Blehm (The Last Season, 2006) recounts Green Beret exploits in southern Afghanistan where no organized anti-Taliban opposition existed. Worse, the population was Pashtun, the majority tribe that refused to accept a government dominated by the non-Pashtun Northern Alliance. With no alternative, American leaders decided to support Hamid Karzai (Afghanistan’s president today), at the time an obscure Pashtun who had returned from exile to gather support. Blehm delivers biographies of team members and their leaders as well as the nuts-and-bolts preparation for the mission. In November 2001, helicopters dropped the team inside Taliban-controlled southern Afghanistan where it joined Karzai and his few supporters. Within a month this small band had assembled a guerilla army that fought its way to Kandahar, the Taliban capital in the south, and forced its surrender—though the mission was marred by a gruesome friendly-fire incident that killed and crippled many team members. The author provides a minute-by-minute account of this dramatic campaign, and the page never flags. Some readers, however, may wince at the author’s narrative style, which features dialogue and inner thoughts as recounted to the author by the soldiers involved. Blehm extols these men’s laudable courage and sacrifice, but he ignores larger issues, including the sad fact that America squandered this victory and the Taliban have returned to dominate southern Afghanistan.

Lowbrow history, but a gripping story of admirable men.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-166122-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2009

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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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