In this exciting book, Felton has captivatingly captured the bravery of the prisoners.

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ZERO NIGHT

THE UNTOLD STORY OF WORLD WAR TWO'S GREATEST ESCAPE

Military historian Felton (China Station: The British Military in the Middle Kingdom, 2013, etc.) delivers a page-turner about one particularly daring escape from a Nazi POW camp during World War II.

The men who populated the “vast enclosure” of Oflag VI-B in Warburg had mostly been captured in actions at Dunkirk, Crete, and northern France. There were nearly 3,000 prisoners, all officers except for 400 “other ranks.” What makes this story particularly absorbing is the author’s use of diaries and interviews to re-create dialogue. These extraordinary men were the most determined escape artists in captivity, and Oflag VI-B was especially built in 1941 to contain them. Their ingenuity, creativity, resourcefulness, and daring would make for great fiction—but it’s all true. At the beginning of the plot, an “X” committee controlled how many tunnels were being dug. The perimeter of the camp was guarded by two parallel fences 12 feet high, with a wire-filled void between to deter climbing. The group’s greatest escape attempt was the brainchild of Maj. Tom Stallard, who proposed to take hundreds of men out in one fell swoop. His “ladder,” based on medieval siege engines, would reach the top of the fence, and a bridge would span the gap. Those involved set to work, creating rope from the twine binding Red Cross boxes and stealing wood and nails from camp structures. They even concealed the ladder as shelving in the music hut. The greatest contribution came when Capt. Kenneth Searle noticed a major unfused spur line leading to the cobbler’s hut, an oversight that would enable him to short out perimeter lights to enable the escape. The author grippingly tracks the evaders’ trek to freedom, an event that would warrant a book in itself. Even the epilogue will bring a smile.

In this exciting book, Felton has captivatingly captured the bravery of the prisoners.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-07374-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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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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