A latecomer to the field, not strong enough to displace better books that cover the same ground, such as Marq de...




Prosaic travels through the rubble of the Soviet Empire.

Former NPR Moscow bureau chief Sheets has been a longtime resident of Russia, having arrived there as a student in the late 1980s and been privileged to see firsthand the reforms of the Gorbachev era and, soon thereafter, the collapse of the Soviet Union. As he writes here, not everyone in Russia or its former satellites was glad to see the Soviets go. One old survivor of the siege of Leningrad, for instance, faults current leader Vladimir Putin, a former KGB stalwart, for not being tough enough, even if he “had made Russia respected in the world again—if not an empire, then certainly a country to be taken seriously.” Sheets travels through several post-Soviet landscapes, observing the war Chechnya as it was unfolding; he adds value to other accounts by being able to speak directly to the combatants in conversations that highlight, among other things, racism in the ranks. There are some revealing moments, as when former statesman Edvard Shevardnadze admits that he had not correctly foreseen the events that would sweep the Soviet state from power (“I was convinced the Soviet Union would disintegrate,” he says. “But to be honest, I was off by 10 or 15 years”), and when Sheets travels into the “Stans,” which he calls “some of the most quirky countries of earth.” The author’s accounts are evenhanded and trustworthy, but his prose limps along, pausing to remark on too man obvious points. Less of the expected nostrums and more on the gritty business of collecting news in dangerous places would have helped.

A latecomer to the field, not strong enough to displace better books that cover the same ground, such as Marq de Villiers’ Down the Volga (1992), Thomas Goltz’s Chechnya Diary (2003) and Andrew Jack’s Inside Putin’s Russia (2004).

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-39582-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet