NORTHWEST EPIC

THE BUILDING OF THE ALASKA HIGHWAY

Plodding, statistics-clogged account of the construction of the Alcan Highway, hacked out of the Canadian/Alaskan wilderness by the US military and private contractors during the early, anxiety- filled days of WW II. Twichell is a former West Point history teacher whose father was an Army officer involved with the project. Begun immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Alcan Highway, Twichell explains, was intended to provide a relatively safe supply line to the then-Territory of Alaska. Four routes were proposed, each supported by local boosters eager to share in the promised economic bonanza. White and black regiments of the US Army Engineers, mostly ill-trained and ill-equipped, were dispatched to the area. Twichell does a fine job of capturing the tensions and rivalries that accompanied the use of these rigorously segregated troops. But when he turns to an almost mile-by-mile, bulldozer-by-bulldozer, mountain-by-mountain account of their progress, his narrative pace falters, only quickening when he incorporates anecdotes into his story—tales of the grizzled guides, the seat-of-their-pants bush pilots, or the black enlisted men who helped build the highway. Also of interest are Twichell's reports on the backbiting common among top brass; a brief discussion of the Senate investigating committee—headed by future President Truman—that blew the whistle on Army excesses; and a look at the delivery of Lend-Lease planes to Russia over the arctic route. Such bright spots, however, are infrequent as the author devotes page after page to catalogues of distances covered, the number of automotive breakdowns, troop allotments, and other ledger-sheet matters. WW II-era historians may benefit from the welter of facts and figures; most readers, though, will find Twichell's account as tedious as a Yukon winter. (Illustrations—not seen.)

Pub Date: July 17, 1992

ISBN: 0-312-07754-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1992

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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