A fascinating must-read for World War II aficionados.

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BIG WEEK

THE BIGGEST AIR BATTLE OF WORLD WAR II

A highly detailed account of the crucial week in February 1944 when American and British air forces conducted a series of air raids on German industrial and military targets.

Military historian and novelist Holland (The Allies Strike Back, 1941-1943, 2017, etc.) looks at the campaign both in its context as preparation for the Normandy invasion later that year and in its impact on the American, British, and German fighter and bomber crewmen who took part in it. In the fall of 1943, U.S. and British air corps generals were operating under the belief that the war could be won by bombing alone. To that end, they were running steady missions against German targets, with the U.S. bombing by daylight and the British at night. However, a shortage of long-range fighter planes meant that the bombers were exposed for much of their missions, and the resulting high attrition was unsustainable. Worse yet, unless the Luftwaffe could be reduced in strength, a successful Normandy invasion was a pipe dream. The answer came both in a change in tactics—making destruction of the Luftwaffe the top priority—and in the introduction of a new weapon, the P-51 Mustang long-range fighter. With the P-51 accompanying them, bombers could reach their German targets without leaving behind fighter protection, and the fighters, instead of shepherding the bombers to their targets, were set free to confront their Luftwaffe counterparts. All this came together in a week of raids in the third week of February 1944. Holland follows several individuals from all sides of the war, including Jimmy Stewart, who served as a major and flew several missions; Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, who took over command of the 8th Air Force; and German ace Heinz Knoke, who survived the war despite being shot down several times. The interplay of personal stories with the broader strategic picture makes the book especially illuminating, and the author also provides a few pages of helpful diagrams and maps.

A fascinating must-read for World War II aficionados.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2839-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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