Making no attempt to elevate these events beyond their modest significance, Sturma tells an engrossing story of courage,...




One of the few submarine war stories with a happy ending.

After the USS Flier was sunk off the Philippines in 1944, survivors faced harrowing conditions behind Japanese lines, but they were eventually rescued. Submarines, not the infantry, were the most dangerous service of World War II, writes Sturma (History/Murdoch Univ., Australia; Death at a Distance: The Loss of the Legendary USS Harder, 2006, etc.). American subs wreaked more havoc on the Japanese than Nazi U-Boats did on Allied shipping, but the United States lost 52 craft and more than 3,500 crewmen during the war. Not a lucky vessel, the Flier ran aground before its first tour of duty, requiring more than two months of repairs. During its sole successful patrol, it probably sank one Japanese ship. Barely two weeks into a second patrol, a sudden, catastrophic explosion (the ship may have hit a mine) sank it in less than a minute. Of the 82 crewmen, only 14 escaped, none wearing life jackets. After 18 hours drifting and swimming, eight survivors reached an island 12 miles away. Finding no fresh water, they built a raft and struggled to two more islands, also waterless. Finally, after four days of starvation and thirst, skin blistered by the sun and feet lacerated from walking on coral reefs, they reached a larger island and found water. The next day, Filipino guerrillas arrived and led the Americans to their camp. Ten days later, a submarine evacuated them. Having immersed himself in World War II submarine lore, the author fills his entertaining book with diversions into related areas. Readers will encounter lively essays about undersea tactics, the claustrophobic world of submariners, the history of mines and of torpedoes, the American-supported Filipino guerrilla movement and the nasty politics of the U.S. submarine high command.

Making no attempt to elevate these events beyond their modest significance, Sturma tells an engrossing story of courage, suffering and survival.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8131-2481-0

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Univ. Press of Kentucky

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2007

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


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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