Thoroughly researched, closely argued, utterly convincing—with dramatic irony that is nearly unbearable. (40 b&w...




A meticulous analysis of December 7, 1941, and a ringing defense of Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, the man who faced the blame for that day’s stunning Japanese success.

Gannon (Black May 1943, 1998, etc.) begins with the attack itself—but this is only an adumbration of the fuller description he provides later in his compelling study. (Readers who have seen Michael Bay’s film Pearl Harbor will recognize many events and some dialogue that originated in the myriad documents Gannon quotes.) The author retreats a few years and examines the events and personalities that coalesced at Pearl Harbor. He’s a staunch supporter of Adm. Kimmel: “The words Kimmel and dereliction,” he writes, “were antithetical.” Gannon also chides conspiracy theorists for fanning the flames of the incendiary (and unsupportable) theory that FDR knew in advance of the attack and withheld that intelligence in order to propel the country into WWII. Gannon reviews the increasing tensions between the US and Japan and convincingly shows how the escalating punitive trade restrictions placed on Japan left the US little room to negotiate as the storm clouds gathered. By late July 1941, says Gannon, “There were no more peaceful sanctions at American disposal.” As diplomacy breaks down, Gannon takes us back and forth between Japan and the US, between the architects of the attack and those who (in his view) did the best they could with extremely limited resources. (There were not enough reconnaissance aircraft to explore more than a tiny fraction of the Pacific.) Occasionally, the Tom Clancy in Gannon cannot resist supplying arcane details that impede the flow of his narrative. We learn the following about the takeoff of a PBY: “The two 14-cylinder, 1200 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-1830-82 engines on the wing above his head put out a thunderous din.”

Thoroughly researched, closely argued, utterly convincing—with dramatic irony that is nearly unbearable. (40 b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-6698-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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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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