One Man's Vision of Our Tumultuous Century
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 A unique raconteur tells the history of the 20th century through the stories of its protagonists. Toland has lived one of the most unusual of lives. Born two years before the outbreak of WW I, and a few weeks after the sinking of the Titanic, he spent much of the Depression riding the rails as a hobo, often spending a night in jail ``as a price of the ticket.'' A frustrated playwright, he did not publish his first book until age 45, after leaving his wife (and her dance school, where he taught baton twirling) and learning the art of nonfiction writing by doing magazine articles on subjects like suppressed inventions and fortune-hunting. His work on imperial Japan, Rising Sun, won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction, and his biography of Adolf Hitler was a bestseller. Captured by History is an intimate account of his interviews with thousands of people--from eyewitnesses to history, such as Gîring's butler, to the crucial figures of our century. Although Toland freely admits that he is not an academic historian and was not traditionally trained, he is sensitive to the seductions and lures of oral and contemporary history. Nor has the historian completely overtaken the playwright; contrary to some theoretical approaches to history that are suspicious of all narratives, Toland insists that history is a story, or more tellingly, history is a play, with narrative structure and drama. ``If it is not that, it is not fully human.'' No doubt he will be criticized by professional historians, but he is a popular bard, recounting what is no less than a modern epic. From the American Midwest of the Depression to the abyss of evil that was Nazi Germany to the mysteries of imperial Japan, Toland has painted in all the vivid colors of a truly ``tumultuous century.''

Pub Date: July 11th, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-15490-9
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1997