Good and evil blur in this descent into the shadowy, slippery realm of wartime espionage.




Financial Times journalist Burns (Barça: A People’s Passion, 2000, etc.) examines his father’s career as a British Secret Service agent in Spain during World War II.

The author learned a great deal about his father’s wartime activities from the recent opening of MI6 files as well as tracking down the still-living participants, whose memory, he admits, proved shaky. The official version of his father’s work—running Allied propaganda in the Iberian peninsula under Sir Samuel Hoare, then British ambassador to Spain—claimed that Burns had suspicious fascist, pro-Catholic leanings and elicited information from and protected sources who were suspected of being German agents. Burns fils sifts carefully through the record and concludes admiringly that his father’s methods—going “native” in Spain and resisting the Minister of Information’s attempts to control him—proved highly effective in the ultimate goal: to keep Franco and his pro-Axis minions from siding with Hitler. Born Catholic in Chile to British parents, papa Burns was educated by the Jesuits in England. He befriended a circle of Catholic intellectuals and worked at The Tablet, recruiting such literary lights as Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton and Graham Greene. The energized young Catholics were horrified by the communist “savagery” enacted on the Catholics with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, and Burns had to tread gingerly between Franco’s suspicion of the British effort and the Nazis military and espionage offensive. Winning Spanish public opinion was first priority, though Burns’s fraternization with Spanish collaborationists proved questionable. On the other hand, he may have kept the British embassy from being shut down completely. More memoir than history, the author’s re-creation of his father’s wartime activities exposes a hive of complex spy games and a fascinating, little-discussed part of WWII.

Good and evil blur in this descent into the shadowy, slippery realm of wartime espionage.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8027-1796-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2009

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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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