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

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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