Civil War enthusiasts will appreciate Trudeau’s careful attention to detail, while general readers may wish for a more...

SOUTHERN STORM

SHERMAN’S MARCH TO THE SEA

A balanced account of the famous—or infamous, depending on your sympathies—campaign that effectively ended the Civil War in the Deep South.

As former NPR executive producer Trudeau (Gettysburg, 2002, etc.) notes, William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea was not without its uneventful stretches; the diary entries of many of the soldiers, he grumbles, can be summarized with the phrase, “Nothing of interest to report.” Sadly, that applies to stretches of this book, which reports nearly every datum about the 1864 campaign, interesting or not, while skimping a touch on big-picture interpretations of what the campaign meant in the larger context of the Civil War. Early on, Trudeau promises psychodrama by observing that Sherman was grieving the loss of a son who died the year before. Of course, in that time of carnage, death was everywhere, and Trudeau does not pursue the question of how Sherman handled his sorrow. What he does do—and what will make this book controversial, at least among certain circles—is to hazard that the March to the Sea has been compressed in the popular memory as a frenzy of raiding and burning, whereas in reality the campaign was both longer and less brutal than that. Trudeau reckons, drawing on contemporary statisticians, that Sherman, “at his thoughtful, self-confident best” at the start of the march, was more restrained than he might have been, “blaming southerners for their complicity and deeming himself powerless in the random chance destructiveness of the storm he had unleashed.” Just so, rebel military resistance was somewhat tougher than the standard texts suggest, while the vaunted guerrilla resistance to Sherman’s foraging troops was less stiff and surely less organized. Sherman’s successful raid across southeastern Georgia served him well personally, however. Grant may have had doubts about the wisdom of sending an army so far from its base, but he esteemed Sherman highly thereafter.

Civil War enthusiasts will appreciate Trudeau’s careful attention to detail, while general readers may wish for a more vivid, cut-to-the-chase version of events.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-059867-9

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2008

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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