Serves both as an engaging Civil War history and an object lesson in unanimity, goodwill, and civic duty. (photos and maps)


APRIL 1865


A history of the last days of the Civil War.

Many Civil War histories have attempted to explore the key roles military and civilian leaders played in preventing the combat from deteriorating into a protracted, low-intensity guerrilla conflict, but the war has been such an important part of our national consciousness for so long that it is hard to think of it in terms of particular actions undertaken by individual human beings. Winik (On the Brink, 1996) here tries to recapture the uncertain drama of the Civil War’s waning days. He begins by reflecting on the tenuous nature of the bond between the early American states, offering evidence that many of the founding fathers did not believe that the republic could survive if it grew to encompass too large a geographic area. From this premise he quickly moves forward in time, tracing the development of the divisive issues of states’ rights and slavery, which eventually threw the Union’s likelihood of survival into question. Winik offers detailed portraits of Grant and Lee and vivid descriptions of the battles by which the Union forces finally cornered the Confederate general. He also presents an engaging account of Lincoln’s assassination, reminding readers that John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators were, in fact, attempting to pull off a coup d’etat—and that attempts were made against the lives of Vice President Johnson and Secretary of State Seward the same evening. This narrative approach offers a better insight into the events than standard academic historiography, especially for the armchair historian or the military buff who is more interested in people and events rather than interpretations.

Serves both as an engaging Civil War history and an object lesson in unanimity, goodwill, and civic duty. (photos and maps)

Pub Date: April 4, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-018723-9

Page Count: 496

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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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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