A pleasant walk over very familiar ground. (b&w photos throughout.)




Admiring, even romantic chronicle of the Anglo-American leaders’ warm personal relationship before and during WWII.

Newsweek managing editor Meacham (ed., Voices in Our Blood: America’s Best on the Civil Rights Movement, 2000) begins in Yalta, 1945, at a time he much later characterizes as “the true twilight” of the friendship between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. The president is not well—distracted, even—and the prime minister is feeling both his and his former empire’s diminished status as the war winds to its end, with Uncle Joe Stalin and the Soviet Union on the rise. The author then goes back to 1918 and the duo’s first meeting (not recalled fondly by FDR) before swiftly, almost breathlessly moving forward to 1939 and the Nazi invasion of Poland. What ensues between the two Greatest Leaders of the Greatest Generation is much like a courtship. Churchill pursued the US’s might (albeit mostly potential at the time), seeing Roosevelt as the reluctant bride-to-be with an enviable dowry of ships, planes, materiel, and men. But FDR, though eight years Winston’s junior, was no naïve ingénue. As Meacham ably shows, he was capable of Clintonesque compartmentalizing, courting Stalin while dissembling artfully to maintain Churchill’s affections. (Assessing Roosevelt’s actual extramarital affairs, Meacham assures us that the president was interested more in romance than in sex.) Roosevelt also managed to disguise the effects of his polio and to win an unprecedented four US presidential elections. Meacham quotes liberally from the two men’s vast correspondence (some 2,000 letters) and from eyewitnesses to the 113 days they spent together. He has clearly mastered his material, though he does not comment on the long-standing controversy over whether either leader knew in advance about Pearl Harbor and concludes with the un-startling statement that the world would be different had Hitler won.

A pleasant walk over very familiar ground. (b&w photos throughout.)

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-50500-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2003

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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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