THE LAST DAYS OF INNOCENCE

AMERICA AT WAR, 1917-1918

A lively and persuasive history of America's experience in WW I, stressing the impact of that immense struggle on the nation's identity, by a prolific husband-and-wife writing team (Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army, 1992, etc.). America had assumed a crucial role in the war, the authors argue, long before a single American soldier reached the front lines. From 1914 on, America supplied the ``rifles, howitzers, shells'' desperately needed by the hard-pressed Allies. American money propped up the depleted treasuries of the French and British; all told, they note, the US spent the staggering sum of $50 billion on the war effort. The swift arrival of hundreds of thousands of American troops blunted and then broke the last German offensive and decided the war's outcome. During their relatively short but ferocious time on the front, American forces, earning a reputation for reckless courage, suffered a quarter million casualties, including 50,000 dead. The authors spend roughly half the book describing the home front, including the long, bitter debate over entering the war, growing labor and social unrest, and a resulting massive growth of government powers. Their descriptions of these matters, and of the experience of American soldiers in battle, are handled with clarity and force. The British and French, determined to impose their terms on Germany, relentlessly downplayed America's contribution to the war, and undercut President Wilson's attempts to insure the peace. Many Americans, feeling that America had been manipulated and misled by her allies, turned away from Europe. At home, unrest had created ``wide rents . . . in the social fabric. . . . Rudely, the war had thrust Americans into the uncertain future of the twentieth century.'' A sad, gripping account of one of the defining moments in our history.

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-41863-6

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

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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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