A brisk, suspenseful World War II narrative from a proven storyteller.




In the latest in a wave of books about the Japanese attack, British author and former journalist Best (Five Days that Shocked the World: Eyewitness Accounts from Europe at the End of World War II, 2012, etc.) reaches around the world to ascertain what actually happened near and on Dec. 7, 1941.

Some of the author’s historical snapshots have nothing to do with Pearl Harbor directly—e.g., a glimpse at the German front line close to Moscow, where the Nazis were halted by Russian resistance; or the Hollywood director William Wyler’s making of Mrs. Miniver and his controversial choice of an evil Nazi character rather than a sympathetic German. Yet each of the narrative’s segments reveals how the war was beginning to insinuate itself into everyone’s life, whether one was aware of the events or not: on Dec. 2, Lady Diana and Duff Cooper were entertaining guests on the prize British battleship HMS Prince of Wales just off the British island of Singapore, little suspecting that the Japanese would strike Singapore soon after Pearl Harbor, sink the great ship, overrun the island, and essentially destroy British imperial ambitions. Inside the basement Cabinet War Room in London, Winston Churchill kept his maps to plot the Nazi menace as well as the Japanese forays into the South Pacific; it was there that the staff had lost track of Japan’s aircraft carriers. The author follows closely the severing of diplomatic relations between the Japanese representatives and the Americans and President Franklin Roosevelt’s intuitive act of writing a heart-to-heart letter to Emperor Hirohito at the eleventh hour—which would reach Japan too late. Then there is the tragic story on the ground, where the Navy staff, under the able Adm. Husband Kimmel, essentially did its job but lacked enough of a sense of vigilance or urgency.

A brisk, suspenseful World War II narrative from a proven storyteller.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-07801-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 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...


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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