An impressively researched, cogently argued reinterpretation of World War II diplomatic relations.

THE THIRD MAN

CHURCHILL, ROOSEVELT, MACKENZIE KING, AND THE UNTOLD FRIENDSHIPS THAT WON WWII

A historical work examines World War II diplomacy through the lens of a Canadian prime minister’s diary.

As the leader of Canada’s governing Liberal Party for nearly three decades and as prime minister through the entirety of World War II, Mackenzie King was “a vital link” between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. King’s 30,000-page typed diary provides a unique perspective on the American president and the British prime minister, who was loath to admit he needed a mediator between himself and Roosevelt. The diary challenges the prevailing notions, largely crafted by Churchill himself, of American and British diplomacy during the war. As a professor emeritus of history at the University of Western Ontario, Thompson expertly parses the voluminous diary and convincingly demonstrates that King, who was present during closed-door conversations, knew Roosevelt and Churchill “better than they knew each other.” Indeed, while Roosevelt and Churchill put on public faces of unity, strengthened by their mutual talents for rhetorical eloquence, behind the scenes both men had different visions of the postwar world. Whereas Churchill clung to past imagery of a benevolent yet dominant British Empire, Roosevelt saw the war as an opportunity to build a new world order. King’s accounts of conversations between the three range from lofty debates over the postwar landscape to more mundane discussions of “democratic management” of their respective cabinets and legislatures. They also deliver revealing personal details, such as King’s concerns over Churchill’s drinking habits that included half a bottle of brandy a day. By placing King as “The Third Man” alongside Roosevelt and Churchill, the book tells the Canadian leader’s own story as a man who felt “more at home in London, Washington, or New York” than he did in Toronto or Ottawa. Additional insights into Canada’s paradoxical history as both an American neighbor and member of the British Commonwealth receive keen analysis. But there is a noticeable absence in themes relating to racism, from Churchill’s views on the sustained colonization of Africa to Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese Americans.

An impressively researched, cogently argued reinterpretation of World War II diplomatic relations.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-989555-26-2

Page Count: 498

Publisher: Sutherland House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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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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In this meticulously detailed and evocative book, history comes alive, and it isn’t pretty.

THE ORDER OF THE DAY

A meditation on Austria’s capitulation to the Nazis. The book won the 2017 Prix Goncourt.

Vuillard (Sorrow of the Earth: Buffalo Bill, Sitting Bull and the Tragedy of Show Business, 2017, etc.) is also a filmmaker, and these episodic vignettes have a cinematic quality to them. “The play is about to begin,” he writes on the first page, “but the curtain won’t rise….Even though the twentieth of February 1933 was not just any other day, most people spent the morning grinding away, immersed in the great, decent fallacy of work, with its small gestures that enfold a silent, conventional truth and reduce the entire epic of our lives to a diligent pantomime.” Having established his command of tone, the author proceeds through devastating character portraits of Hitler and Goebbels, who seduced and bullied their appeasers into believing that short-term accommodations would pay long-term dividends. The cold calculations of Austria’s captains of industries and the pathetic negotiations of leaders who knew that their protestations were mainly for show suggest the complicated complicity of a country where young women screamed for Hitler as if he were a teen idol. “The bride was willing; this was no rape, as some have claimed, but a proper wedding,” writes Vuillard. Yet the consummation was by no means as smoothly triumphant as the Nazi newsreels have depicted. The army’s entry into Austria was less a blitzkrieg than a mechanical breakdown, one that found Hitler stalled behind the tanks that refused to move as those prepared to hail his emergence wondered what had happened. “For it wasn’t only a few isolated tanks that had broken down,” writes the author, “not just the occasional armored truck—no, it was the vast majority of the great German army, and the road was now entirely blocked. It was like a slapstick comedy!” In the aftermath, some of those most responsible for Austria’s fall faced death by hanging, but at least one received an American professorship.

In this meticulously detailed and evocative book, history comes alive, and it isn’t pretty.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59051-969-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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