Students of 20th-century American and European history will enjoy this American view of the war and its long-term...

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THE GREAT WAR IN AMERICA

WORLD WAR I AND ITS AFTERMATH

A new history of World War I, viewed through the lens of America, where it “was an enormously contentious issue.”

Peck (Walt Whitman in Washington, D.C.: The Civil War and America's Great Poet, 2015, etc.) denies the biographical bent of his book, but Woodrow Wilson figured massively in the avoidance, eventual entrance, and especially the disastrous results of the war. One-third of America’s population was first- or second-generation immigrants from the belligerent nations. Many disliked England or Germany, but seemingly everyone loved France, and they were the beleaguered nation. Other than the Navy, the American armed forces were in no shape to fight any war, let alone one thousands of miles away. The debate about whether to enter continued for more than two years. Ultimately, the U.S. decided to enter due to Germany’s unrestricted U-boat warfare and the Zimmerman Telegram inviting Mexico to invade. Wilson first assumed a lofty position of arbiter trying to end the war without success. After American entry, he trampled on civil liberties, censored mail, and forbade Germans from owning guns or approaching military facilities. He stifled freedom of speech and basic civil liberties with the Sedition Act, Espionage Act, and Trading with the Enemy Act. American troops were young, poorly trained, and poorly armed. Gen. John Pershing insisted that his doughboys would not be co-opted, but the French and English had counted on incorporating that army into their own. Pershing also insisted on training for open warfare rather than the established trench warfare. The Battle of Château-Thierry put that idea to rest as Americans were mowed down by German machine guns. Furthermore, Wilson’s rigid Fourteen Points caused more problems than solutions. The worst road blocks were Wilson’s presence in Paris and his insistence that the League of Nations be included in the punitive, catastrophic Treaty of Versailles, but that’s another book. Here, Peck proves a reliable guide to “a nation that was rapidly growing up—and yet not mature enough to accept its global responsibilities.”

Students of 20th-century American and European history will enjoy this American view of the war and its long-term consequences.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68177-878-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

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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