The Enigma story continues to enthrall and delight, even after 50 years and a few dozen accounts: don’t miss this one....



It wasn’t only a crew of eccentric English mathematicians with brains the size of basketballs who cracked the Germans’ Enigma code during WWII, but a whole cast of spies and soldiers as well, says journalist Sebag-Montefiore in this magnetic story of breaking the cipher.

Not that Sebag-Montefiore downplays the inspired contributions of those famed cryptographers at Bletchley Park (including Alan Turing, the eccentric genius who used to pedal his bike about the countryside wearing a gas mask and kept his coffee mug chained to a radiator). The author spends plenty of time detailing their toils, complete with code-smashing math in appendices. But other players were involved, as well as the workings of fate and dumb luck. There was also more than one Enigma code, and each was more vexing than the last. There were spies who sold early versions of the code to the French, whole companies of men assigned to raiding German vessels (particularly U-boats) for Enigma machines, and an important cast of Polish codebreakers and intelligence officers. Sebag-Montefiore does a masterful job of keeping the suspense ticking as he fills in all the details, for as he makes clear, it was not just breaking the code that was critical, it was keeping that knowledge a secret so as to exploit the information. What made it all so cat-and-mouse—and what keeps the reader on the edge of the seat—was that the Germans were suspicious that Enigma had been compromised (but never enough so to stop using it), Gestapo agents in occupied France were arresting individuals who knew the extent of Allied progress on Enigma, and the Allies themselves didn’t know what had been divulged. The fate of the invasion at Normandy hung in the balance.

The Enigma story continues to enthrall and delight, even after 50 years and a few dozen accounts: don’t miss this one. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-471-40738-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Wiley

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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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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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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