Featuring excellent characterization and exquisite detail concerning a theater of the war (Norway) not well-mined, this will...

THE WINTER FORTRESS

THE EPIC MISSION TO SABOTAGE HITLER’S ATOMIC BOMB

An exciting, thorough account of how Norwegian resistance, with help from the British, scuttled Nazi attempts to build an atomic program.

The steady focus of this suspenseful work of research by accomplished nonfiction author Bascomb (The New Cool: A Visionary Teacher, His FIRST Robotics Team, and the Ultimate Battle of Smarts, 2011, etc.) is Vemork, a Norwegian hydroelectric plant on the Mana River. The author weaves together several strands regarding this top-secret 1943 Norwegian-British mission to dismantle the part of the Vemork power station that was producing heavy water, a severely condensed substance that the Nazi physicists were beginning to understand might help lead to the production of an atomic bomb. Soon after the invasion of Norway by the Nazis in April 1940, Norwegian scientist and professor of atomic chemistry Leif Tronstad, a fervent patriot, caught on to the Germans’ sudden interest in increasing the production of heavy water. Working through the British Secret Intelligence Service, Tronstad was able to direct the commando operation on Vemork from the safe resistance headquarters in London. Bascomb’s intricate story involves two teams of commandos organized under Britain’s Special Operations Executive, both of which dropped into Norway in late 1942: the Grouse team, led by Jens-Anton Poulsson, would act as the advance unit, carrying radios and support, and the Gunnerside team of saboteurs, led by Joachim Rønneberg, would infiltrate the plant at night and perform the delicate demolition before escaping on skis through the snowy valley. Bascomb carefully examines the significance of the plant in the entire scheme of Allied victory as well as the perilous fates of the men and their families. Ultimately, he asks, “if the Germans had fashioned a self-sustaining reactor with heavy water, what then?”

Featuring excellent characterization and exquisite detail concerning a theater of the war (Norway) not well-mined, this will make a terrific addition to World War II collections.

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-36805-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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