Best for readers who yearn for Saving Private Ryan–like morality plays. Anyone seeking a comprehensive treatment of the...

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THE SECOND WORLD WAR

A NARRATIVE HISTORY

In this general historical survey, Ray attempts to explain to contemporary readers why his generation fought WWII.

After comparing each nation’s military, economic, and political circumstances during the inter-war years, Ray argues that a general mood of appeasement in France and Britain enabled Hitler to make escalating demands for territorial concessions. War followed after Hitler went too far by invading Poland. Moving from the European theater to the Middle East and the Pacific, Ray shows how each nation became involved in the conflict. Extensive treatments of combined arms tactics, strategic bombing campaigns, as well as submarine, air, and tank warfare demonstrate the specific considerations that shaped leaders’ decisions about the war. Ray uses the postwar settlements to foreshadow the growing antagonism between the Soviet Union and the US. One must wonder, however, if Ray’s survey explains why people fought the war. Because he focuses on the actions of war leaders, it is difficult to understand why ordinary people participated in the conflict. Furthermore, the racial motivations of the antagonists are hardly mentioned. Hitler is rightly treated as an anti-Semitic warmonger, but the motivations of the millions of Germans who pursued the Third Reich’s goals are never investigated. The Holocaust is relegated to two pages in an appendix, as if it had little to do with German war aims, and important issues (such as Americans’ racial hatred of the Japanese or the Russian abhorrence of the German enemy) are not mentioned. Ray justifies the release of atomic weapons over Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the chestnut: “War is no party.” Moreover, the firebombing of Dresden is rationalized with the pronouncement that “international conflict is no picnic.” These exclusions and simplistic explanations leave the impression that the Axis powers were the only ones with their hands dirty, that the war was about, as Ray puts it, “men fighting for basic good against basic evil.”

Best for readers who yearn for Saving Private Ryan–like morality plays. Anyone seeking a comprehensive treatment of the course and consequences WWII should look elsewhere.

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-304-35303-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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