Should spark discussion among WWII historians and great interest among military-history buffs.

THE FALL OF FRANCE

THE NAZI INVASION OF 1940

Superb, highly accessible revisionist study of Germany’s swift defeat of France in 1940 and its wide-ranging implications, then and now.

The fall of France was by no means inevitable, writes Jackson (History/Univ. of Swansea; France: The Years 1940–1944, not reviewed), although “the longer term decline of French power probably was.” At the beginning of 1940, the French army was fairly evenly matched with the Nazi Wehrmacht and better armed in many areas. Moreover, Jackson argues, the vaunted doctrine of blitzkrieg was as much theory as reality; few German units were wholly mechanized, and the most decisive episodes in the German invasion were waged by small infantry units without adequate air cover. However, even though the French army had many strengths, its advances since WWI had been incremental; few French commanders had taken any advantage whatever of such innovations as mobile armor, and its “corpus of doctrine” was still mired in the trenches of 1918. Individual French soldiers fought bravely against the Germans and inflicted heavy casualties, but the French army was as dispirited as the political leadership, which, torn apart by infighting, failed to muster nationwide resistance. Jackson quotes, for example, a letter from infantry sergeant (and future president) François Mitterand, who wrote to friends from the front line, “What would really annoy me is dying for values in which I do not believe.” Die many thousands of French soldiers did, though, and France fell. The reverberations were immediate, writes Jackson. The fall of France allowed Hitler to point his forces eastward, a threat that Josef Stalin recognized immediately; it tied up the British navy in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, preventing a defense in the Pacific against Japan, whose military leaders became even more aggressive (next stop: Pearl Harbor); and it effectively stripped France of its former imperial glory, leaving it just another small European nation.

Should spark discussion among WWII historians and great interest among military-history buffs.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-19-280300-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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...

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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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