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A gripping page-turner that thrills like fiction.

The story of desperate East Germans crossing over, digging under, and crashing through the Berlin Wall.

Using interviews, recently declassified State Department files, unreleased film footage, and Stasi archives, Mitchell (Atomic Cover-up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and The Greatest Movie Never Made, 2012, etc.) chronicles the Russian determination to stem the tide of refugees. From the late 1940s to 1961, “some 2.8 million East Germans fled to the West,” 20 percent of them through Berlin. In response to a spike of 19,000 per month in 1961, the Berlin Wall was constructed and reinforced until its fall in 1989. The central figure of Mitchell’s story is Harry Seidel, an East German cycling champion who might easily have gone to the Olympics. But he had something else on his mind. Within weeks of the building of the wall, he led his wife and son and two dozen others to freedom. The other main player is the Stasi and their thousands of spies and moles. After people died trying to leap from buildings across the wall, crash through it, or swim the River Spree, Seidel began his first tunnel. He wasn’t the only one working in the West. The Girrmann group, making fake passports and hiding refugees in cars, also began a dig, not knowing of the true identity of their East German messenger, the Stasi spy Siegfried Uhse. The author ably captures the dedication of the men and women trying to get family, friends, and complete strangers to freedom. The introduction of newsmen arranging to film the digging and paying for the privilege might have caused friction among the diggers, except that what little money was given went to supplies for the tunnels. The successes were few and failures frustrating, especially in the wake of the unknown mole, but workers were determined and started a new tunnel as quickly as one closed.

A gripping page-turner that thrills like fiction.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90385-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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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 wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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