Kershaw blends an understanding of the blunt-force turning points of history with an appreciation for missed opportunities....

FATEFUL CHOICES

TEN DECISIONS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD, 1940–1941

The world’s leaders pave the path to war—and to the rest of a war-ridden century—in this insightful interpretation of recent history.

World War II, “the most awful in history,” and the postwar era largely took shape in decisions made between May 1940 and December 1941, argues Kershaw (Hitler, 2000, etc.), who outlines the ten most important of them. Adolf Hitler made three of them: to attack the Soviet Union, to declare war on the U.S. and to launch the Holocaust. In the matter of the first, Kershaw suggests that Hitler may have boxed himself in: Ideology and strategy combined to require an effort to do away with Stalin’s regime quickly so that the Third Reich could expand southward and face the U.S., which was sure to land in Europe someday. Even though it got Moscow in its sights, Hitler’s Russian campaign failed as Napoleon’s had, thanks in some measure to the brutal winter. But Hitler would forever blame another of the ten decisions Kershaw outlines, namely Benito Mussolini’s supremely misguided ploy to invade Greece, which resulted in one of many Italian defeats. Hitler asserted that “but for the difficulties created for us by the Italians and their idiotic campaign in Greece…I should have attacked Russia a few weeks earlier.” Hitler’s two-front war was threatening and massive enough that one of England’s key decisions was simply that of continuing to fight on rather than sue for peace, while one of those made by FDR was to carry on a sort-of-war without congressional approval until he could overcome his isolationist opposition—a political feat not really possible until Japan made one of its key decisions, that of launching the surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Kershaw blends an understanding of the blunt-force turning points of history with an appreciation for missed opportunities. Of much interest to students of the modern era.

Pub Date: June 4, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-59420-123-3

Page Count: 596

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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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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