A tense, richly detailed narrative of the American Revolution.



In 1781, discouraged after five years of war, George Washington finally saw the tide turn.

National Book Award winner Philbrick (Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution, 2016, etc.) reprises the protagonists of his last history of the War of Independence in a meticulously researched recounting of the events leading up to the colonists’ victory at the Battle of Yorktown. Focusing on naval and military strategy, Philbrick—like Tom Shachtman in How the French Saved America (2017)—reveals the critical contributions made by the French navy, a fleet that had improved substantially since its defeat by Britain in the Seven Years’ War. In France’s Académie de Marine, students were taught “to think of a naval battle in terms of a chess game rather than a brawl,” inciting, “for the first time in centuries, a whisper of doubt” in the “collective psyche of the British navy.” Although British commanders were determined to win, they were faced with passionate French military men, such as the young Marquis de Lafayette, the Comte de Grasse, and the Comte de Rochambeau, as well as recalcitrant colonists. British successes emboldened, rather than intimidated, patriots. “Broken up into thirteen largely self-sufficient entities,” the author asserts, “the United States was a segmented political organism that was almost impossible for the British army to kill.” However, American soldiers were in a weakened state, starving and unpaid. Washington, who had recently learned of Benedict Arnold’s betrayal, feared mutiny. But, Philbrick argues persuasively, Arnold’s treason actually strengthened the patriots’ resolve “by serving as a cautionary tale during one of the darkest periods of the war.” The author portrays Washington as an aggressive, undaunted leader—even when facing distressing personal problems—who emitted a “charismatic force field.” One British officer reported feeling “awestruck as if he was before something supernatural” in Washington’s presence. Philbrick, a sailor himself, recounts the strategic maneuvering involved in the many naval encounters: ships’ positions, wind direction and strength, and the “disorienting cloud of fire and smoke” that often imperiled the fleet.

A tense, richly detailed narrative of the American Revolution.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42676-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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