An ambitious, dense, sometimes-difficult treatment of a vast topic.

TO HELL AND BACK

EUROPE 1914-1949

From the so-called golden age that preceded the guns of August 1914 to the early frost of the Cold War, a much-honored British historian takes on the 20th-century history of Europe.

In this first of two projected volumes, Kershaw (The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1944-45, 2011, etc.) confines himself to the century’s war-torn first half, examining first the genesis of the ghastliness of World War I, where the European nations, in David Lloyd George’s phrase, unwittingly “slithered over the brink” into armed conflict. Then followed the even greater calamity of World War II, foreseen by many and considered “the unfinished business of the first.” Kershaw’s capacious theme, an examination of “the driving forces that shaped the continent as a whole,” permits no detailed coverage of any character, development, or event, no matter how momentous, but he certainly has not missed anything of significance. He tracks the shifting social, political, cultural, and economic trends and is especially sharp discussing the effects of the Great Depression; the post–WWI competition for dominance among the incompatible political systems of communism, fascism, and liberal democracy; the peculiar cultural moment between the world wars, particularly in Paris and Weimar Germany; the drift of politics decisively to the right during the Depression; the distinctions among the dictatorships of Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler; the condition, by 1939, of three-fifths of Europeans living in 16 states under some form of authoritarian rule; and the second war’s “bottomless pit of inhumanity,” including the murder of the Jews. Kershaw concludes with a somewhat less successful appraisal of the vastly altered geopolitical landscape following WWII, the social and economic disruptions, the physical ruin of the continent, and the responses to the devastation offered by the Christian churches, leading intellectuals, and popular entertainments.

An ambitious, dense, sometimes-difficult treatment of a vast topic.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-02458-2

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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