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

TROUBLESOME YOUNG MEN

THE REBELS WHO BROUGHT CHURCHILL TO POWER AND HELPED SAVE ENGLAND

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007

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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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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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