Vivid and highly readable: for students of WWII and urban history alike.

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LONDON 1945

LIFE IN THE DEBRIS OF WAR

A gracefully rendered portrait of a great city at war.

Waller (Ungrateful Daughters, 2003) writes with illuminating and abundant detail: Whereas other histories of WWII mention that the historic, square-mile City of London was badly damaged in Luftwaffe bombing raids, she notes that “a total of 417 high explosive bombs were dropped on the City alone, 13 parachute mines, 2,498 oil bombs, and thousands of incendiaries.” Other parts of the metropolis fared no better, and thousands of civilians died. By 1945, the last year of the war, the numbers of dead were declining somewhat as Hitler’s forces turned to a desperate defensive war, but the toll was still heavy. Londoners escaped as best they could—physically, by burrowing underground, and emotionally, by indulging in such outlets as they could, some good, some bad. Waller takes a daily-life approach to chronicle that last year, which seemed to dawn without promise of relief. January, she writes, was the coldest in half a century: “There were sheets of ice in the Straits of Dover and in London Big Ben froze.” Food supplies were dwindling, too, though Londoners made do with what they could get until rations were slashed after the peace was signed. Waller writes of the renaissance in book publishing as Londoners turned to reading as never before, even as publishers were forced to make do with printing paper that, George Orwell grumbled, was flimsier than toilet tissue; and of the equally remarkable flourishing of prostitution as London filled with foreign soldiers and once-respectable neighborhoods sprouted brothels that, as a patriotic measure, put low-paid British servicemen on a different tariff from the higher-paid Yanks. If there was a good side to it all, Waller observes, it was that the bombings afforded London a chance to rebuild an overgrown and somewhat decrepit city, though the job of rebuilding took 50 years. She concludes, “It has been worth the wait.”

Vivid and highly readable: for students of WWII and urban history alike.

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-33803-1

Page Count: 528

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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