This may prove to be an important book for students of “counterfactual” history, but only occasionally does this story about...




Was World War I an inevitable disaster looking for a catalyst? Not so, writes On Point news analyst Beatty (Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865-1900, 2007, etc.) in this intermittently illuminating but deeply frustrating new history.

What happened is well known. After Serbian terrorist Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, pieces locked in place that engaged the major powers in a catastrophic war. Austria, backed by Germany, declared war on Serbia, which was backed by Russia; soon, Russia’s ally France entered the fray, as did Britain. After years of trying to stay out of it, the United States was pulled in when it looked as if Mexico was going to try to reclaim parts of Texas. Things could have easily been different, writes Beatty, as the countries involved were all locked in internal struggles that could have taken different outcomes, and Princip’s bullet could have easily missed and struck another target—if it had, the living Ferdinand would not have argued for war. Not only that, but he would have acceded to the throne following Austria-Hungary’s Emperor Franz Joseph’s death in 1916, and would likely have been too embroiled in civil strife to deal with a war with Serbia. Once war was engaged, it was kept alive by press censorship in the countries involved. The French, English and Germans did not know the scale of suffering endured by their soldiers, and may not have wanted to. By the time the U.S. joined in 1917, it only prolonged the struggle. A post-Armistice food blockade starved Germany, and the children of that war would unite under the father figure of Adolf Hitler. The author provides a well-researched, compelling thesis, but the narrative lacks strong portraiture, the motivations aren’t always made clear and the drama, except in rare instances, remains on a simmer.

This may prove to be an important book for students of “counterfactual” history, but only occasionally does this story about a world going up in flames ever ignite.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8027-7811-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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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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