Feel-good histories of World War II have fallen out of fashion, but Britain’s sole stand against Hitler remains inspiring....

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LAST HOPE ISLAND

BRITAIN, OCCUPIED EUROPE, AND THE BROTHERHOOD THAT HELPED TURN THE TIDE OF WAR

A “rich, intensely human story” of European cooperation during World War II.

Early on during the war, government officials and many citizens of a host of conquered European nations fled to Britain. Bestselling historian Olson (Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941, 2013, etc.) writes a vivid history of the war through the eyes of the exiles and compatriots left behind. She reveals inspiring tales of heroism, suffering, and sacrifice without ignoring too many incidents of betrayal, missed opportunities, and incompetence. First to arrive were the Poles and Czechs. That Britain had betrayed Czechoslovakia to Hitler in 1938 and remained passive while the Wehrmacht conquered Poland in 1939 did not lessen their commitment. Their military units fought with the Allies, and their prewar intelligence skills were far superior. The brilliant Bletchley Park decoders could not have succeeded without the earlier innovations of Polish codebreakers. In 1940, leaders from conquered Norway, Denmark, Belgium, and Holland formed exile governments. Though no significant French political figures came to Britain, Winston Churchill encouraged the obscure brigadier general Charles de Gaulle. Olson reminds readers that, until late 1942, none of this activity greatly inconvenienced Hitler or his plans. Britain’s victory (really a draw) in the Battle of Britain was followed by a numbing series of blunders and defeats. Joining the resistance was suicidal; even military buffs will recoil at the murderous ineptitude of early British secret operations. By 1943, however, the Allies had gotten their act together. Their armies were advancing, and the resistance was functioning efficiently.

Feel-good histories of World War II have fallen out of fashion, but Britain’s sole stand against Hitler remains inspiring. Despite the title, the occupied nations that she sheltered did not “turn the tide,” but Olson delivers an engrossing, sometimes-disturbing account of their energetic efforts.

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9735-4

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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