There are few more essential books for Civil War buffs and professional historians alike. A welcome, valuable addition to...

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HEARTS TOUCHED BY FIRE

THE BEST OF BATTLES AND LEADERS OF THE CIVIL WAR

Firsthand accounts of the bloodletting whose 150th anniversary we are about to commemorate, some of which might have saved later historians embarrassment.

In 1883, only 20 years after Gettysburg, the editors of The Century magazine commissioned a comprehensive series of articles from senior officers on both sides of the conflict, documenting great events and more modest episodes alike. For the next four years, contributions poured in, and The Century experienced a huge bump in circulation. Here, political historian Holzer (Lincoln: President-Elect, 2008, etc.) serves up a comparatively compact selection, whittling the original down to a quarter and enlisting leading historians—James McPherson, Joan Waugh, Craig Symonds and others—to provide contextual introductions and notes. The result is a model of scholarship and historical editing—though, as is proper, its greatest value is in presenting those original views. Confederate Gen. Stephen D. Lee writes of the war’s stage-setting process. At the first Confederate Congress in Montgomery, Ala., many believed first that there would be no war; writes Lee, “The expectation of ‘peaceable secession’ was the delusion that precipitated matters in the South.” One of Lee’s counterparts, Jacob D. Cox, writes that the North was scarcely better prepared, though rumors of war had long been rumbling: “There had for many years been no money appropriated to buy military material or even to protect the little the State had.” After the disaster at Bull Run—ably recounted by victorious Confederate generals Beauregard and Johnston—the North was better equipped and would forever remain so. Every page here is fascinating, but historians should note the firsthand accounts of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, which has been second-guessed ever since, but which seems all but inevitable from a you-are-there perspective. The answer to why Robert E. Lee appeared at Appomattox in a brand-new uniform, which has puzzled some historians, is also revealed. Many of the Confederate writers are sharply critical of the political conduct of the South, condemning Jefferson Davis for, in the words of one, “drift[ing], from the beginning to the end of the war.” Some Union writers, for their parts, are scarcely more complimentary of their leadership.

There are few more essential books for Civil War buffs and professional historians alike. A welcome, valuable addition to the vast library devoted to the conflict.

Pub Date: April 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-679-64364-7

Page Count: 1280

Publisher: Modern Library

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 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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