A patient study of what political foot soldiers can accomplish when the need to remove an unpopular boss arises.

Strong account, by historian/journalist Olson (A Question of Honor, 2003, etc.), of the insurgency that ended Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.

By the time Chamberlain took chief executive power, writes Olson, his ways—and those of his Conservative whip and other lieutenants—had become un-Britishly tyrannical: He stifled the BBC and newspapers, demanded absolute loyalty of fellow party members and charged his Labour opponents with “damaging the national interest,” if not outright treason. But, writes Olson, the “troublesome young men” who entered the House of Commons in the 1930s were not ordinary Tories; some, like Harold Macmillan, had done frontline duty in WWI, others served poor constituencies and all hated fascism. Faced with the specter of their party leader’s negotiating with Hitler to betray yet another ally—first Czechoslovakia, perhaps next Poland—these young men, ideologically closer to the Labour left than the fuddy-duddy right of their own senior leadership, began to organize a long campaign to oust Chamberlain. One, a young military officer named Ronald Cartland, was so radicalized by the Tory majority’s refusal to speak up against the party’s head that, by the time of Dunkirk, he was telling his allies that “Neville Chamberlain and [Tory whip] David Margesson should be ‘hung upon lampposts.’ ” It did not come to that, but, through careful and politically dangerous maneuvering, Cartland, Macmillan, Leo Amery, Anthony Eden and other rebels were finally able to force a crisis-of-confidence vote in the wake of the ill-fated Norway expedition and to replace Chamberlain with the largely unpopular Winston Churchill, who then came into his own in heading the country during WWII. History—and Churchill, for that matter—did not treat many of the “troublesome young men” well, and most were all but forgotten in the postwar era, at least for their role in the insurgency; Olson does well in remembering their daring.

A patient study of what political foot soldiers can accomplish when the need to remove an unpopular boss arises.

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-374-17954-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007


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


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

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