An intricately layered account of the eastern Baltic, a land shaped by colonization, revolution, deportation, and murder.

THE GLASS WALL

LIVES ON THE BALTIC FRONTIER

The rich and tragic history of an obscure part of the world: the eastern Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia.

Egremont dives deep into the story of the Baltic frontier, an area largely controlled by foreign powers since the 12th century. Colonized by Russia, Sweden, and Germany, invaded by the Nazis and then the Red Army, the people of the Baltic have suffered domination imposed by outsiders since the days of the Crusades. The author paints an astute portrait of the Baltic Germans, the aristocracy that moved in by papal invitation during the Crusades and accumulated land, money, and power until World War I. He capably re-creates their vanished cultural world: poetry readings, croquet, halls lined with works by the old masters. But in this geographically vulnerable part of Europe, wealth was no protection against invasion. In World War II, Hitler ordered the Baltic Germans to move to a conquered area of Poland, and the Jews they relied on were executed, many shipped to concentration camps. Latvians and Estonians were drafted into the German army, and the Nazis laid plans for mass deportations of Estonians, Latvians, and their neighboring Lithuanians. After World War II, anyone perceived as an opponent of the Soviet-led regime was sent to labor camps in the Soviet Union. Today, both countries are independent republics, and one Estonian observes, “there’s no class system. It’s money that counts now.” The Russian threat is never far away, and the locals stockpile petrol and strategize the quickest way out of the country in the event of an invasion. Egremont seems to have read every Baltic German novelist, visited every notable town, and tracked down every living witness to its history. The narrative sometimes meanders, but the book contains a helpful gazetteer and chronology. The text requires serious concentration, but diligent readers are rewarded with a near-total immersion into a land, its people, and the harrowing arc of its history.

An intricately layered account of the eastern Baltic, a land shaped by colonization, revolution, deportation, and murder.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-16345-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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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 well-documented and enlightened portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt for our times.

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ELEANOR

A LIFE

A comprehensive exploration of one of the most influential women of the last century.

The accomplishments of Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) were widespread and substantial, and her trailblazing actions in support of social justice and global peace resonate powerfully in our current moment. Her remarkable life has been extensively documented in a host of acclaimed biographies, including Blanche Wiesen Cook’s excellent three-volume life. Eleanor was also a highly prolific writer in her own right; through memoirs, essays, and letters, she continuously documented experiences and advancing ideas. In the most expansive one-volume portrait to date, Michaelis offers a fresh perspective on some well-worn territory—e.g., Eleanor’s unconventional marriage to Franklin and her progressively charged relationships with men and women, including her intimacy with newspaper reporter Lorena Hickok. The author paints a compelling portrait of Eleanor’s life as an evolving journey of transformation, lingering on the significant episodes to shed nuance on her circumstances and the players involved. Eleanor’s privileged yet dysfunctional childhood was marked by the erratic behavior and early deaths of her flighty, alcoholic father and socially absorbed mother, and she was left to shuttle among equally neglectful relatives. During her young adulthood, her instinctual need to be useful and do good work attracted the attention of notable mentors, each serving to boost her confidence and fine-tune her political and social convictions, shaping her expanding consciousness. As in his acclaimed biography of Charles Schulz, Michaelis displays his nimble storytelling skills, smoothly tracking Eleanor’s ascension from wife and mother to her powerfully influential and controversial role as first lady and continued leadership and activist efforts beyond. Throughout, the author lucidly illuminates the essence of her thinking and objectives. “As Eleanor’s activism evolved,” writes Michaelis, “she did not see herself reaching to solve social problems so much as engaging with individuals to unravel discontinuities between the old order and modernity.”

A well-documented and enlightened portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt for our times.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9201-6

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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