Less vigorous than David Reynolds’s In Command of History (2005), Best’s book breaks no new ground.


Young Winston goes to war: an account of the British leader’s education by combat, and the role of war in his political thought.

Churchill, writes Best (Churchill: A Study in Greatness, not reviewed), seems fated to have entered the army; he had not earned the formal academic attainments required to attend Oxford, as his father had, and “theirs was not the sort of family that thought of sending sons into the church.” Even as an officer trainee, Churchill lacked the math to be an engineer and the overall grades to get into the infantry, which left only the cavalry—in which, still a teenager, he excelled, mastering the profession of arms and learning in the bargain how to write about war. In his early assignments in the field, Churchill managed to layer a second career as a correspondent (and a well-paid one, though he thought his mother/agent was selling him too cheaply on Fleet Street) onto his principal work as an officer of the crown. He soon produced a well-received book on the Empire’s woes in Afghanistan that may merit revisiting today: “We can’t go back and we must go on,” he wrote. “Financially it is ruinous. Morally it is wicked. Militarily it is an open question, and politically it is a blunder.” Nuanced thinking won of experience became a Churchill trademark as he commanded the British Navy (and lobbied for broader responsibilities) in WWI, and, Best writes, his Cabinet colleagues “were thankful that there was at least one amongst them who seemed to know what to do.” And if his enthusiasm for war was perhaps too much at the start—Best quotes from a cheerful letter from Churchill exulting the outbreak of hostilities between Austria-Hungary and Serbia—it was soon tempered, and Churchill matured.

Less vigorous than David Reynolds’s In Command of History (2005), Best’s book breaks no new ground.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-85285-464-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hambledon and London

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2005

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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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