Certainly flawed, but it should appeal to readers who enjoy a good adventure and/or war story.

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INDESTRUCTIBLE

ONE MAN'S RESCUE MISSION THAT CHANGED THE COURSE OF WWII

The story of how one man’s struggle to free his family after the fall of the Philippines in World War II inspired him to create new weapons systems that hastened the Allied victory.

Military historian Bruning (Battle for the North Atlantic: The Strategic Naval Campaign that Won World War II in Europe, 2013, etc.) tells the story of Paul Irvin “Pappy” Gunn (1899-1957), a former Navy man who rose through the ranks to become one of the hottest aviators in the service before retiring to start Philippine Air Lines. Living in Manila with his wife and children, Gunn enjoyed the good life—yet he well knew the danger of Japanese expansion. After Pearl Harbor, he laid plans to get them to safety using his company’s planes. But the situation deteriorated faster than anyone expected, and Gunn was back in the war effort, using the airline’s planes to move Army personnel and equipment. When Manila fell, he was on a long-distance mission, too far away to save his family, who went into a prison camp. Gunn’s attempts to find a way back to rescue them never got off the ground; instead, he turned to tinkering on planes. His major coup was converting the B-25 medium bomber into a gunship, a new weapon that turned the tide against the Japanese navy. Bruning also follows the family’s grueling experiences in the prison. This is a compelling story with strong characters and a wealth of fascinating incidents, set against some of the fiercest action of the war. However, the author spends too much time going into bits of back story; while these passages fill in the portrait of Gunn, they slow down the flow of the main story. Bruning’s writing is workmanlike but never really smooth, and he sometimes neglects the larger context. Fortunately, the subject matter is strong enough, on the whole, to carry readers along.

Certainly flawed, but it should appeal to readers who enjoy a good adventure and/or war story.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-33940-7

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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At nearly 1,000 pages, Chernow delivers a deeply researched, everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know biography, but few readers...

GRANT

A massive biography of the Civil War general and president, who “was the single most important figure behind Reconstruction.”

Most Americans know the traditional story of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885): a modest but brutal general who pummeled Robert E. Lee into submission and then became a bad president. Historians changed their minds a generation ago, and acclaimed historian Chernow (Washington: A Life, 2010, etc.), winner of both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, goes along in this doorstop of a biography, which is admiring, intensely detailed, and rarely dull. A middling West Point graduate, Grant performed well during the Mexican War but resigned his commission, enduring seven years of failure before getting lucky. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he was the only West Point graduate in the area, so local leaders gave him a command. Unlike other Union commanders, he was aggressive and unfazed by setbacks. His brilliant campaign at Vicksburg made him a national hero. Taking command of the Army of the Potomac, he forced Lee’s surrender, although it took a year. Easily elected in 1868, he was the only president who truly wanted Reconstruction to work. Despite achievements such as suppressing the Ku Klux Klan, he was fighting a losing battle. Historian Richard N. Current wrote, “by backing Radical Reconstruction as best he could, he made a greater effort to secure the constitutional rights of blacks than did any other President between Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson.” Recounting the dreary scandals that soiled his administration, Chernow emphasizes that Grant was disastrously lacking in cynicism. Loyal to friends and susceptible to shady characters, he was an easy mark, and he was fleeced regularly throughout his life. In this sympathetic biography, the author continues the revival of Grant’s reputation.

At nearly 1,000 pages, Chernow delivers a deeply researched, everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know biography, but few readers will regret the experience. For those seeking a shorter treatment, turn to Josiah Bunting’s Ulysses S. Grant (2004).

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59420-487-6

Page Count: 928

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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