An enjoyable, swift read, and the author’s final solution to Archie’s wartime dilemma makes it as fun as a work of...




Australian transplant and longtime Paris resident Baxter (The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris, 2011) has spent years trying to discover what it was that changed his grandfather so much when he returned from World War I.

Grandpa Archie left his young family, rejected his former job and never mentioned the war; he only occasionally said, ça ne fait rien (it makes no difference). Was he injured; did he suffer or commit horrors; did he desert; did he fall in love? During his many years in Paris, the author only found a few facts with the help of a military historian. Within Archie’s story, the author intersperses descriptions of Paris and its artistic occupants during the Great War. For most Parisians, French or not, the war didn’t seem real; it was a show, entertainment for their picnics. Most residents were only concerned with the moment. Despite shortages, the theater muddled on, dinner parties were noted for the clever conversations rather than the cooking, and bombs were mostly ignored. Only the French could make austerity chic. “Far from rejecting pain,” he writes, “[Paris] embraced it, transformed it.” Throughout the narrative, Baxter jumps back and forth to England, where the Australian forces were based before traveling to the front and returned for recovery. The no-nonsense Aussies were quick to start a fight and didn’t take any guff from anyone, even officers, and the botched leadership at the beginning of the war would no doubt have caused a mutiny. This book is as much about searching for Grandpa Archie’s life as it is about Paris and England during the war. In lesser hands, the narrative could have easily become confusing, even boring, but Baxter carries it off with aplomb.

An enjoyable, swift read, and the author’s final solution to Archie’s wartime dilemma makes it as fun as a work of historical fiction.

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-222140-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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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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