Military buffs will lap it up, but general readers may find it difficult to resist the tension, drama and fireworks of this...

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THE WAR BELOW

THE STORY OF THREE SUBMARINES THAT BATTLED JAPAN

Using voluminous official records plus interviews and an amazing number of unpublished diaries and letters, former Charleston Post and Courier investigative reporter Scott (The Attack on the Liberty: The Untold Story of Israel's Deadly 1967 Assault on a U.S. Spy Ship, 2009) delivers a gripping, almost day-by-day account of the actions of three submarines, Silversides, Tang and Drum, from Pearl Harbor to VE Day.

Nazi U-boats get the publicity, but America’s submarines were more effective, sinking so many Japanese vessels that by the end of World War II, civilians were starving and factories barely functioning. The author mixes biographies of the men who fought in the subs, technical details of sub warfare and the patrols themselves. Moving back and forth among the three boats, he describes weeks of boredom and searching, days of maneuvering for attacks, the devastation when they were successful, the frustration when they weren’t and the anxiety of enduring depth-charge attacks while trapped deep beneath the sea. All this havoc on Japanese shipping came at a price; American submarines suffered 20 percent losses, the highest of any Navy service. That included the Tang, sunk, ironically, by its own malfunctioning torpedo, killing most of its crew. The nine survivors emerged as malnourished skeletons after a year of unspeakable conditions in Japanese prisons. Scott pauses regularly to explain the progress of the Pacific war but makes no attempt to write a general history of the submarine campaign; for that, read Clay Blair’s Silent Victory (1975). Inevitably, details of several dozen submarine patrols become increasingly familiar.

Military buffs will lap it up, but general readers may find it difficult to resist the tension, drama and fireworks of this underappreciated but dazzlingly destructive American weapon of WWII.

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4391-7683-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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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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