Sure to be among the year’s best histories of World War II.



A veteran historian and journalist pulls together many historical threads in this portrait of the “battle for the Middle East…one of the critical fronts of World War II.”

Gorenberg, a winner of the National Jewish Book Award who has been covering Middle Eastern affairs for more than 35 years, begins with a vivid portrait of Cairo in July 1942, its air dense with smoke from burning diplomatic documents, the streets packed with fleeing vehicles. Axis forces under Gen. Erwin Rommel had crossed the border and seemed unstoppable. Maj. Bonner Frank Fellers, America’s military attaché in Cairo, reported the news to Washington along with a description of British forces and his opinion that they were on the verge of collapse. Rommel also read Fellers’ report; he had been reading them since America entered the war. The author then rewinds the clock to the British countryside in 1939. Unlike the film The Imitation Game, Gorenberg delivers historically accurate and fascinating descriptions of Bletchley Park as a collection of smart, workaholic men and women that included a sprinkling of geniuses. They produced not one but many breakthroughs regarding the constantly changing Axis codes. Assigned to read decrypts to discover spies, one expert noticed that Rommel was receiving useful information from a source in Cairo. More digging pointed to the American military attaché. It turned out that the efficient Italian intelligence service routinely rifled the unguarded embassy safes in Rome, so American codes were no secret. Once they were changed, Rommel began complaining of the quality of his intelligence, and the British continued to eavesdrop. Gorenberg’s gimlet eye reveals a remarkably unheroic Rommel, unimaginative British generalship, know-it-all American leadership, and a delightful cast of colonial officials, family, unhappy Egyptian royalty, Arab nationalists, adventurers, and even two bumbling Nazi spies out of central casting. The author also includes a helpful cast of characters, divided by country, and a list of relevant intelligence and security agencies.

Sure to be among the year’s best histories of World War II.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-61039-627-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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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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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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