A confident and rewarding survey of a hinge point in 20th-century history.

SIX MONTHS IN 1945

FDR, STALIN, CHURCHILL, AND TRUMAN--FROM WORLD WAR TO COLD WAR

A close look at one of the most consequential six-month periods of the last century.

In the six months following the “Big Three” conference in Yalta in February 1945, Franklin Roosevelt died and was succeeded by Truman, Germany surrendered, the United Nations convened in San Francisco, Churchill was turned out, and the atomic bomb was tested and then dropped on Japan. Yalta seemed to produce broad agreements on strategies to end the war and cooperate in the occupation of a unified Europe. By the time the newly constituted Big Three met again in Potsdam in August, however, Germany and Europe were becoming irrevocably divided and world war was evolving into cold war, despite the intentions of all three leaders. In this elegantly written narrative, longtime journalist Dobbs (One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War, 2009, etc.) shows how the Allies’ political and economic systems ultimately proved hopelessly incompatible. Words like “elections,” “democracy,” “fascism” and “freedom” meant very different things to the Soviets than they did to the Americans and British, leading each side to accuse the other of reneging on their commitments. Against a background of savage ethnic cleansing, Stalin imposed Soviet-style governments on territory held by the Red Army and pillaged surviving industrial equipment, while the Americans moved to keep German uranium and atomic scientists from falling into Soviet hands. When the Russians refused to supply Pomeranian grain and Silesian coal for western Germany and began interfering with access to Berlin, the alliance had clearly devolved into deadly rivalry. Dobbs delivers engaging portraits of the national leaders and often amusingly detailed accounts of their conferences, while demonstrating that “sometimes history has a mind of its own, riding roughshod over the decisions of the most charismatic personalities and moving in directions contrary to their desires.”

A confident and rewarding survey of a hinge point in 20th-century history.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-27165-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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