It didn’t work that way, of course. Logevall’s exhaustive study shows chapter and verse why not—and why the ensuing American...



Comprehensive history of the early years of what in Vietnam is called “the American War”—the time in which one Western power took the place of another, only for both to be defeated.

Logevall (International Studies and History/Cornell Univ.; Terrorism and 9/11: A Reader, 2002, etc.) opens his long, deeply complex narrative with a little-known event: namely, a fact-finding mission to Vietnam on the part of then-Sen. John F. Kennedy in 1951, reporting on his return home that France was foolishly trying to cling to an empire even as the people of Vietnam rejected the French-installed Vietnamese puppet government. But much as President Obama inherited George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, by the time Kennedy became president, he was saddled with Truman’s and then Eisenhower’s Vietnam. Logevall is careful to point to roads-not-taken without belaboring the point, to which readers will respond all the same by wishing, for one thing, that Franklin Roosevelt had lived beyond 1945—for it was he who was urging a postwar world without overseas empires, who “had reached the conclusion that, for good or ill, complete independence was foreordained for all or almost all the European colonies.” In the real development of early events, there was nothing foreordained, however; much of what shaped up in Vietnam was the result of historical accidents, such as the fact that, as Logevall notes, the Potsdam Agreement favored Ho Chi Minh by placing northern Vietnam under Chinese control, which allowed his Viet Minh to build up its armaments and political power. The opposition mounted by Ngo Dinh Diem, though, was ineffectual; he had enough on his hands trying to deal with the organized crime gangs that really ran South Vietnam. By the end of 1963, things really were locked into inevitability, especially after Ho decided to escalate the war precisely in order to make the Americans go home.

It didn’t work that way, of course. Logevall’s exhaustive study shows chapter and verse why not—and why the ensuing American war was doomed to fail.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-50442-6

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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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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