A unique, often controversial description of Lee’s soldiers, their background and the conditions under which they fought.

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GENERAL LEE’S ARMY

FROM VICTORY TO COLLAPSE

Everything you ever wanted to know about the Army of Northern Virginia.

Ironies abound in this thick but highly readable tome from Glatthaar (History/UNC-Chapel Hill; Partners in Command: The Relationships Between Leaders in the Civil War, 1993, etc.). The wild enthusiasm following secession produced far more volunteers than the Confederate army could handle, but conscription became law in less than a year. Dissenting from the argument that Confederate soldiers fought for ideals we cherish today, the author states bluntly that Robert E. Lee’s men knew they were defending slavery. Historians traditionally emphasize that only one in 20 Southerners owned slaves, but Glatthaar points out that this neglects men who lived in households that included slaves: nearly half of enlisted men and virtually all officers. Even nonslaveholding soldiers took it for granted that Northern efforts to restrict slavery were a vicious attack on Southern freedom. For them, the idea that blacks deserved freedom was proof of Yankee insanity. Assuming command in June 1862, Lee vaulted from obscurity to acclaim during bloody battles that drove Union forces back from Richmond. He was an intelligent, aggressive general, perhaps too aggressive for a leader whose army had limited resources. When the fortunes of war favored him, Lee won great victories but always against weak opposing generals. Like Hannibal before and Rommel after him, his triumphs ended when he faced a competent adversary, in this case Ulysses S. Grant. While Glatthaar deals adequately with the battles, he shines in writing about the soldiers themselves. He finds the catchphrase “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight” to be exaggerated; poor, comfortable and prosperous men joined in equal numbers. Most gripping are the depressing details of the South’s persistent failure to supply Lee’s army: Soldiers often starved, dressed in rags and marched without shoes.

A unique, often controversial description of Lee’s soldiers, their background and the conditions under which they fought.

Pub Date: March 18, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-684-82787-2

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2007

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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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