This highly detailed look at India’s global effort in their (mostly) patriotic devotion to the empire occasionally gets...




Morton-Jack (The Indian Army on the Western Front: India's Expeditionary Force to France and Belgium in the First World War, 2014) reveals the extent to which the army of British India affected the outcome of World War I.

Historians have often declared that Indian soldiers suffered terribly in Europe’s bitter 1914 winter even though many came from mountain regions where cold, snow, and ice were the norm. They were also viewed as a weak colonial force only useful for easy border scrapes. On the contrary, writes Morton-Jack in this deep, dense history, the soldiers were seasoned professionals: well-traveled, politically aware, militarily skilled, and fully capable of employing their own tactics and enterprise. During WWI, the Indian Army was in a state of perpetual evolution. By 1916, the Indian cavalry in France was the British Expeditionary Force’s best trained and most experienced. The British knew the Indian Army needed to be well treated to hold them; in the first year in France, there were a record number of desertions and self-inflicted wounds. The British did all they could to provide the comforts of home, with special food, equipment, and arms—at least in France—but discipline was strict for deserters. The stories of the different forces and their successes and failures show the diversity of the war and the strong need for central leadership. Until the beginning of 1916, Britain’s military forces had divided controls between two separate departments and headquarters in London and India. Under Field Marshal William Robertson and Commander in Chief Charles Monro, the size of the Indian force was increased via improved pay, pensions, and promotions. With sufficient men and money, earlier losses were reversed. The author includes a helpful cast of characters and a glossary to define “durbar,” “kafir,” “sahib,” and many other terms that may be unfamiliar to general readers.

This highly detailed look at India’s global effort in their (mostly) patriotic devotion to the empire occasionally gets bogged down but usually picks back up quickly. World War I fans will appreciate the broad look.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-465-09404-2

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 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...


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.


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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