The 50th anniversary of WW II's onset has triggered a spate of books from British and American authors. Few if any will be superior to Keegan's lengthy (592-page)but concise overview. The former Sandhurst lecturer (The Price of Admiralty, The Mask of Command, Soldiers, Six Armies in Normandy, et al.) begins his panoramic narrative deep in the past, i.e., with a coherent account of the socioeconomic advances that permitted global conflicts in the 20th century. Having provided stage-setting perspectives, he delivers insightful appreciations of the crucial battles and turning-point campaigns that—at no small cost in blood and treasure—enabled the allies to defeat the Axis powers. Covered as well are the strategic dilemmas that confronted Churchill, Hitler, Stalin, and Tojo as they deployed arms and men throughout the European and Pacific theaters, from the fall of 1939 through the late summer of 1945. Along the way, Keegan offers acute commentary on the major combatants' industrial capabilities, home-front morale, and espionage efforts, plus resistance movements in occupied countries. A graceful writer as well as a knowledgeable student of martial history, he enlivens his chronicle with wry wit, e.g., "(Semyon) Budenny had a fine mustache but no military brain." An informed and informative accounting of a horrific war that, the author suggests in an affecting epilogue, might just have saved the world from wider-ranging hostilities. The text is profusely illustrated, with dramatic photographs and helpful maps throughout.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 1989

ISBN: 0143035738

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1989

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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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