An impressive blend of painstaking historical scholarship and riveting storytelling.

A historical work focuses on the massive humanitarian effort designed to feed a Belgian population starving under German occupation during World War I.

In 1914, Germany invaded Belgium on its way to France, a remarkably brazen violation of the nation’s avowed neutrality. The occupation that ensued was an unmerciful one—factories and coal mines were shuttered; the harvest was largely destroyed; and whatever provisions were available were commandeered by German soldiers. As the first winter approached, it was increasingly possible that a considerable swath of the Belgian population—and many civilians in Northern France, too—faced starvation. Miller chronicles, with the granular precision of an investigative journalist, a brilliant effort to urgently usher supplies to the Belgian people, “one of America’s finest hours in humanitarian aid.” Two collaborative organizations were born—the Commission for Relief in Belgium, founded in London and headed by Herbert Hoover, and the Comité National de Secours et d’Alimentation, established in Brussels and led by Émile Francqui, a business tycoon. The CRB bought and transported the food by ship to Rotterdam while the CN prepared and distributed it. The two sister agencies grappled with myriad obstacles—the British opposed the program because it broke its blockade of German shipments; vessels were hard to find; and the political hurdles were extraordinary, all meticulously documented by the author. The Germans only acquiesced because they thought a better fed citizenry would be more docile and easier to control. Miller brings a complex story to vivid life, astutely explaining the political and cultural landscape of Belgium but also the unfolding of the conflict. The author even accounts for the ways in which the CRB, in particular Hoover, contributed to America’s entry into the war. This is a powerful work of history, as informative as it is dramatically gripping.

An impressive blend of painstaking historical scholarship and riveting storytelling.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5381-4163-2

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020


An overdue upending of art historical discourse.

An indispensable primer on the history of art, with an exclusive focus on women.

Prominent 19th-century art critic John Ruskin once proclaimed, “the woman’s intellect is not for invention or creation, but for sweet ordering, arrangement, and decision,” and traces of this misguided and malignant sentiment can still be found over a century later in art institutions around the world. A 2019 study found that “in the collections of eighteen major US art museums, 87 percent of artworks were by men, and 85 percent by white artists.” There’s a lot to be mad about, but London-based art historian Hessel nimbly pivots that energy into a constructive, revelatory project. This book is not a mere rebuttal to the aforementioned discrimination; deftly researched, the text reveals an alternate history of centuries of artistic movements. With palpable excitement, the author shifts the focus from widely known male participants to the unsung female players of the time. Art aficionados will delight in Hessel’s sleight of hand and marvel at her wide, inclusive reach. Spanning from Baroque art to the present day, she effortlessly removes “the clamour of men” and, in a series of short biographical profiles, shapes a historical arc that still feels grounded even without a familiar male presence. Art history must “reset,” Hessel writes, and she positions her book as an important first step in that reconfiguration. While the author progresses mostly movement by movement, her broader tangents are particularly profound. One of many highlights is a generous overview of queer artists of the Weimar era. Hessel is occasionally uneven with how much content she allots each artist, and some perfunctory profiles feel like the result of trying to highlight as many names as possible. Nonetheless, even the shortest gloss provides enough intrigue to be a successful introduction to an artist who might otherwise be forgotten.

An overdue upending of art historical discourse.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9780393881868

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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