From the author of The Face of Battle: a dazzler among military histories. Keegan opens with his World War II: a Swallows and Amazons idyll, in the West of England, incongruously consumed with soldiering and utterly complacent: "Britain could not lose"—not with the Empire, "all those other people" (wearing Free French, etc., shoulder patches), and the mighty Americans arrayed, as one, against Hitler. What follows is the reality behind the illusion, not only among children, of Allied unanimity. The oft-told story of the British-American Second Front debate is recast, compellingly, in terms of salient individuals: Stilwell—appalled at 1941 Washington disarray; Wedemeyer—author of a Victory Program, born of his German military training, for a great land war in Western Europe; Eisenhower—who converted Wedemeyer's Program into a plan of action, which the British agreed to; Molotov—whose report of Russian losses, and "insulting logic," persuaded FDR to announce a 1942 Second Front; Marshall—forced by the British to settle, instead, for a North African expedition; Brooke, his cautious opposite number—backed into a 1944 cross-Channel invasion, finally, by American and Russian pressure. Also, pre-D-Day: Montgomery—who insisted on more men, and a wider front, lest the invasion forced be "Dunkirked"—and Rommel, who intended (given the means) to do just that. The outcome would now rest with groups of fighting men: in Keegan's inspired re-envisioning of the Normandy campaign itself, six crucially engaged, emblematic armies. American paratroopers "drop into darkness" behind Utah Beach and, scattered but mostly game, "blunder about looking for each other" (causing further confusion among the Germans). Canadian seaborne infantrymen land successfully under German fire, sparing Canada another Dieppe, and move farther inland than any other D-Day force. Scottish Highlanders, Lowlanders, and Territorials (Keegan is wicked on "Balmorality") prise open the first corridor from the beachhead. British and Scottish armored forces—"yeomen" of the 2nd Household Cavalry—suffer terrible losses, without losing ground, in the assault at Caen. The German counter-attack at Mortain is doomed—because, for one, the failed officers' plot against Hitler has made prudent yes-men of his battlefield commanders. A Polish armored division, powerless to aid the Warsaw uprising, rushes jubilantly to cut off the Germans inside the Falaise Salient. And the Free French manage—through "a stroke of misinformation"—to bring about the unscheduled liberation of Paris. The character of national armies, the play of chance and circumstance, the imperatives of technology and strategy—all are brilliantly interwoven and elaborated. If anyone can convert the thoughtful reader to "war books," it will be Keegan.

Pub Date: July 1, 1982

ISBN: 0140235426

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1982

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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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