A case of life imitating stereotype, with Meisner (History/Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison) expressing the hope that socialism in China may be rescued by a revolution against the Communist regime. There are two aims in this book: a ``historical narrative of post-Mao China'' and ``an extended commentary on the fate of socialism in late-twentieth century China.'' Much of the narrative is useful, including a good analysis of how Deng Xiaoping consolidated his power, how he maneuvered to isolate his anointed successor Zhao Ziyang, and Zhao's motives in opposing him at the time of the uprising in Tiananmen Square. As Meisner notes, Deng's commitment to socialism and democracy did not long survive his accession to power. He showed great finesse in wooing the youth and intelligentsia, and promptly forgot about them. The value of the analysis of socialism is something else. He points out that socialism, at least in its simplistic Stalinist rendering, ``meant little more than the nationalization of productive property.'' This notion, he justly observes, was not only appealing in its simplicity, but ``no threat to bureaucratic rule.'' But his own conception suggests a view of socialism that may never have been tried. Other bothersome aspects include an unskeptical treatment of statistics, the more surprising in a period when Soviet statistics have been revealed to be dramatically inaccurate. Most ``odd, or at best quixotic,'' to use his own description, is his apparent hope that ``something of socialism can be salvaged within the framework of the existing sociopolitical system,'' and that some kind of socialist revolution against the ``savage capitalism'' of the Communist government may do the trick. Further evidence perhaps that the most passionate defenders of old-fashioned ``socialism'' may still be found on American campuses.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8090-7815-5

Page Count: 537

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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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

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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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