A fantastic addition to the shelves of World War I histories.

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DREAMS OF A GREAT SMALL NATION

THE MUTINOUS ARMY THAT THREATENED A REVOLUTION, DESTROYED AN EMPIRE, FOUNDED A REPUBLIC, AND REMADE THE MAP OF EUROPE

The first English-language account of a small army that actually took control of Siberia in 1918.

While developing his story, McNamara, an associate scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and associate dean at Drexel University, explains the birth of the Czecho-Slovak nation and the tireless work of three exiles: Tomáš Masaryk, Edvard Beneš, and Milan Štefánik. The first—and most important—point the author makes is that, while sharing a similar language and the oppression of the Austria-Hungarian Empire, the Slovaks of Hungary and the Czechs of Austria were never one people, as evidenced by their split in 1993. In fervent hopes that the war would take long enough to cause the collapse of the Habsburg Empire, Masaryk traveled all over Europe seeking support for the establishment of a new country. His decision to go to Russia to organize a družina of Czecho-Slovak troops created the army that would ensure the birth of the country, Czechoslovakia, that would call him president. Originally only about 350 former prisoners of war, the army eventually grew to a well-disciplined, cohesive group of more than 200,000. The story is extraordinary, and McNamara follows the frustrations of the men who became foils for the Russians, the Germans, and the Allies. Originally scheduled for transport on the Trans-Siberian Railway to Vladivostok for transfer to ships and passage to the Western front, the Russians wanted them in Murmansk while the Allies needed them to establish a second front in the war. McNamara, an impressive storyteller armed with a treasure of documents only recently available, ably narrates the remarkable feats of these men who fought every inch of the way, “who found themselves described in some quarters as the first counterrevolutionaries of a new ear.” Though newspapers across the globe followed the trek, actual assistance was in short supply.

A fantastic addition to the shelves of World War I histories.

Pub Date: March 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61039-484-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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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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