A beautifully crafted, blow-by-blow account with deep insight into the lives of these diverse young men.

SOMME

INTO THE BREACH

A painstaking chronological account of the hideously marred attack on the German entrenchments at the Somme, July-September 1916.

British journalist Sebag-Montefiore (Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man, 2006, etc.) begins in medias res on July 1, 1916, the first of many British and French offensives to dislodge the German front along the river Somme in Belgium. The promised map (not seen) surely illustrates the armies’ slogs during those brutal weeks, when tens of thousands on both sides perished due to ill-informed leaders and for insignificant gains. The author vividly delineates the narrative via extracts from diaries and letters from soldiers. The long line of trenches had been held since the summer of 1914, after Germany’s invasion into Belgium was halted at the Marne by Anglo-French troops, and a stalemate had ensued. The plan for the Somme offensive had been underway since December 1915, but Sebag-Montefiore underscores its many flaws—e.g., inadequate artillery coverage and inability to cut through the German barbed wire at the right places, among other problems. Commanded by Gen. Sir Douglas Haig, the British Expeditionary Force at this point consisted mostly of inexperienced, inefficient volunteers. Moreover, in a kind of “gentleman’s agreement” between Haig and Gen. Henry Rawlinson, head of the British 4th Army unit selected for the Somme attack, Haig exerted what the author characterizes as an “unhealthy ascendancy” over Rawlinson, who had justifiable reservations about the attack, as did the British war committee. The author considers the bad weather and the capture of several British deserters who revealed to the Germans the extent and timing of the big push, thereby robbing the British of the element of surprise. Nevertheless, the overconfident officers assured their trusting soldiers, “we have destroyed the Germans with our guns. Now all you have to do is walk over to their trenches. There will be no opposition.” As the author shows, the results were shattering.

A beautifully crafted, blow-by-blow account with deep insight into the lives of these diverse young men.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-674-54519-9

Page Count: 650

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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...

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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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