A brilliant compendium of everything-you-didn’t-know-about World War I, which, for many readers, will be a great deal.

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1916

A GLOBAL HISTORY

A World War I–focused history of 1916, when “all the major belligerents…stepped up to regulate domestic manpower and mobilize all sectors of the community behind the war.”

The title is not entirely deceptive because it was a genuinely global war. Jeffery (British History/Queen’s Univ., Belfast; The Secret History of MI6: 1909-1949, 2010) makes this clear in 12 long, unconnected, richly detailed, and always fascinating chapters, each with a geographic focus. Following chronology, each chapter begins with an event from that month—February: Verdun; April: the Irish Easter Rebellion; November: the United States presidential election; December: the murder of Rasputin—but moves quickly to larger, more or less related topics. Thus, June saw the Brusilov Offensive, Russia’s greatest victory but one that produced the usual unwelcome consequences. It persuaded Romania to join the Allies, a coup that turned into disaster as German-led forces quickly overran the country. This action “crucially accelerated the political and social destabilization of both the Russian and Habsburg empires, if not the German empire too.” In August, Rhodesian and Indian troops captured Morogogo, the colonial seat of German East Africa. Although trumpeted as a victory, it accomplished little because German and African forces, under the leadership of the skilled Gen. Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, remained intact, continuing to provide troublesome opposition to superior forces until their surrender two weeks after the armistice. Though widely dismissed as a sideshow, World War I transformed Africa. More than 1 million black men served as both soldiers and laborers, and upward of 200,000 died; opposition to recruitment produced several rebellions that were brutally suppressed but marked the beginning of organized opposition to European rule.

A brilliant compendium of everything-you-didn’t-know-about World War I, which, for many readers, will be a great deal.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62040-269-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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At nearly 1,000 pages, Chernow delivers a deeply researched, everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know biography, but few readers...

GRANT

A massive biography of the Civil War general and president, who “was the single most important figure behind Reconstruction.”

Most Americans know the traditional story of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885): a modest but brutal general who pummeled Robert E. Lee into submission and then became a bad president. Historians changed their minds a generation ago, and acclaimed historian Chernow (Washington: A Life, 2010, etc.), winner of both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, goes along in this doorstop of a biography, which is admiring, intensely detailed, and rarely dull. A middling West Point graduate, Grant performed well during the Mexican War but resigned his commission, enduring seven years of failure before getting lucky. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he was the only West Point graduate in the area, so local leaders gave him a command. Unlike other Union commanders, he was aggressive and unfazed by setbacks. His brilliant campaign at Vicksburg made him a national hero. Taking command of the Army of the Potomac, he forced Lee’s surrender, although it took a year. Easily elected in 1868, he was the only president who truly wanted Reconstruction to work. Despite achievements such as suppressing the Ku Klux Klan, he was fighting a losing battle. Historian Richard N. Current wrote, “by backing Radical Reconstruction as best he could, he made a greater effort to secure the constitutional rights of blacks than did any other President between Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson.” Recounting the dreary scandals that soiled his administration, Chernow emphasizes that Grant was disastrously lacking in cynicism. Loyal to friends and susceptible to shady characters, he was an easy mark, and he was fleeced regularly throughout his life. In this sympathetic biography, the author continues the revival of Grant’s reputation.

At nearly 1,000 pages, Chernow delivers a deeply researched, everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know biography, but few readers will regret the experience. For those seeking a shorter treatment, turn to Josiah Bunting’s Ulysses S. Grant (2004).

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59420-487-6

Page Count: 928

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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