A work of significant moral clarity and elegant precision.

The Katyń Massacre was the opening salvo to a war defined by unimaginable horrors. Here, its story is told clearly and passionately with allegiance only to the truth.

In the study of history, one of the hallmarks of the “great powers” is that the rules do not apply to them. Powerful empires—Roman, Ottoman, Soviet, etc.—create their own realities that may or may not coincide with one’s lived experience. After Hitler’s 1939 invasion of Poland, the Soviets decided it was in their best interest to annex a piece of the eastern half of that country. Consequently, it created a reality in which the extant Polish government was dissolved. According to their Orwellian logic, if there was no legitimate government to reckon with, they had free reign. Among their first acts was the capture of more than 22,000 Poles. These men would later be described as the elite of Polish society, including military officers but also aristocrats, artists, and indeed a “complete cross section” of Polish life. Elite or no, the prisoners were bombarded with torrents of authoritarian disinformation and propaganda. During April and May 1940, they were executed. When the Nazis discovered the bodies of those who had been trucked away and “liquidated,” they saw it as a propaganda coup. Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin’s secret police chief, offhandedly called the massacre a “mistake” and tried to pin the blame on the Germans. In a riveting narrative, Rogoyska brings the victims out of the shadows, telling their stories as well as those of the people desperately searching for them. Throughout, the author’s humanity is on full display. These are not just statistics or another item in the ledger of World War II atrocities, but flesh-and-blood individuals who were cut down for no reason and whose memory was lost in the fog of military, great-power history. Rogoyska is to be commended for resurrecting this heartbreaking tale.

A work of significant moral clarity and elegant precision.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-78607-892-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Oneworld Publications

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021


Take a fascinating flight into human history on the wings of 10 important bird species.

An exploration of the deep and complex relationship between birds and human beings.

Moss, a British nature writer, broadcaster, and environmentalist who has written more than 40 books and field guides, is an ideal guide to this in-depth look at 10 consequential species and the threats to their continued survival. Spoiler alert: The world-changing birds are the raven, pigeon, wild turkey, dodo, Darwin's finch, guanay cormorant, snowy egret, bald eagle, tree sparrow, and emperor penguin. The contributions of some of these birds are immediately apparent—e.g., carrier pigeons could bring messages from the front lines of battles and wars, changing the course of the conflicts. The historical roles of other birds are more obscure. The snowy egret, prized for its long, feathery aigrettes, was driven to the brink of extinction by the plumage trade, but this led to the first bird protection laws. Moss is good at sorting out the myths from the realities of these birds' places in history. Darwin's finches, for example, were not actually the inspiration for his theory of evolution by natural selection but are still one of the best demonstrations of its veracity. The author also takes note of the prominent places these birds hold in mythology and literature, such as Poe's "The Raven,” but his larger theme is the threat of extinction that hovers over so many species today. As such, the centerpiece of his avian collection is the dodo, which has transitioned from a real bird to “the global icon of extinction." Its disappearance 300 years ago first suggested to the Western mind that a species could go extinct. The author’s thorough and well-argued book brings urgent attention to all the species that now face oblivion due to the global climate crisis. Heidaripour's illustrations complement the engaging, sobering analysis.

Take a fascinating flight into human history on the wings of 10 important bird species.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781541604469

Page Count: 416

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2023


The Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist (1900–45) collected his work from WWII in two bestselling volumes, this second published in 1944, a year before Pyle was killed by a sniper’s bullet on Okinawa. In his fine introduction to this new edition, G. Kurt Piehler (History/Univ. of Tennessee at Knoxville) celebrates Pyle’s “dense, descriptive style” and his unusual feel for the quotidian GI experience—a personal and human side to war left out of reporting on generals and their strategies. Though Piehler’s reminder about wartime censorship seems beside the point, his biographical context—Pyle was escaping a troubled marriage—is valuable. Kirkus, at the time, noted the hoopla over Pyle (Pulitzer, hugely popular syndicated column, BOMC hype) and decided it was all worth it: “the book doesn’t let the reader down.” Pyle, of course, captures “the human qualities” of men in combat, but he also provides “an extraordinary sense of the scope of the European war fronts, the variety of services involved, the men and their officers.” Despite Piehler’s current argument that Pyle ignored much of the war (particularly the seamier stuff), Kirkus in 1944 marveled at how much he was able to cover. Back then, we thought, “here’s a book that needs no selling.” Nowadays, a firm push might be needed to renew interest in this classic of modern journalism.

Pub Date: April 26, 2001

ISBN: 0-8032-8768-2

Page Count: 513

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

Close Quickview