An expert if discouraging history of the world 90 years ago, when “postwar became prewar.”

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ALL AGAINST ALL

THE LONG WINTER OF 1933 AND THE ORIGINS OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR

Brandeis history professor Jankowski examines world events from 1932 to 1933, and it is not a pretty picture.

Three years into the Great Depression, everyone deplored the international crisis, and there was no shortage of claims that democracy, supposedly triumphant at the end of World War I, was on its way out. Although pundits draw parallels with today’s world, where autocrats are growing increasingly popular, Jankowski points out that the Depression saw no rise in dictatorships except in Germany. Everywhere else—in Russia, Italy, Japan, China, Poland, and most of Eastern Europe—they were already up and running. Demagogues promised to restore national glory, but their audience at that time gave food and jobs equal priority. Throughout this bleak narrative history, the author shrewdly juxtaposes interminable peace and disarmament conferences and political events with the national mood in a dozen countries whose leaders revealed a distressing eagerness to discover the source of their misery in rival nations or undeserving minorities. Everyone hated the Treaty of Versailles, including those who imposed it. Far less populous than Germany, France feared invasion no less than it had before 1914: “The menace would return…if not today, then tomorrow.” German representative government was moribund. Hemmed in by the left and right, centrist parties were a permanent minority in the Reichstag, and President Paul von Hindenburg appointed a series of ineffective chancellors—until Hitler, who “had entered…much as his immediate predecessors had—appointed by an aged president under no obligation to do so, after weeks of favoritism, speculation, and backstairs intrigue.” Japan’s year-old invasion of Manchuria and China already prefigured the next war, and Italy under Mussolini (not yet a comic-opera figure) announced its intention to reconquer an empire. “He promised…that in ten years,” writes the author, “all Europe would be Fascist.”

An expert if discouraging history of the world 90 years ago, when “postwar became prewar.” (8-page b/w photo insert)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243352-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Finely honed biographical intuition and a novelist’s sensibility make for a stylish, engrossing narrative.

THE MAN IN THE RED COAT

A fresh, urbane history of the dramatic and melodramatic belle epoque.

When Barnes (The Only Story, 2018, etc.), winner of the Man Booker Prize and many other literary awards, first saw John Singer Sargent’s striking portrait of Dr. Samuel Pozzi—handsome, “virile, yet slender,” dressed in a sumptuous scarlet coat—he was intrigued by a figure he had not yet encountered in his readings about 19th-century France. The wall label revealed that Pozzi was a gynecologist; a magazine article called him “not only the father of French gynecology, but also a confirmed sex addict who routinely attempted to seduce his female patients.” The paradox of healer and exploiter posed an alluring mystery that Barnes was eager to investigate. Pozzi, he discovered, succeeded in his amorous affairs as much as in his acclaimed career. “I have never met a man as seductive as Pozzi,” the arrogant Count Robert de Montesquiou recalled; Pozzi was a “man of rare good sense and rare good taste,” “filled with knowledge and purpose” as well as “grace and charm.” The author’s portrait, as admiring as Sargent’s, depicts a “hospitable, generous” man, “rich by marriage, clubbable, inquisitive, cultured and well travelled,” and brilliant. The cosmopolitan Pozzi, his supercilious friend Montesquiou, and “gentle, whimsical” Edmond de Polignac are central characters in Barnes’ irreverent, gossipy, sparkling history of the belle epoque, “a time of vast wealth for the wealthy, of social power for the aristocracy, of uncontrolled and intricate snobbery, of headlong colonial ambition, of artistic patronage, and of duels whose scale of violence often reflected personal irascibility more than offended honor.” Dueling, writes the author, “was not just the highest form of sport, it also required the highest form of manliness.” Barnes peoples his history with a spirited cast of characters, including Sargent and Whistler, Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt (who adored Pozzi), Henry James and Proust, Pozzi’s diarist daughter, Catherine, and unhappy wife, Therese, and scores more.

Finely honed biographical intuition and a novelist’s sensibility make for a stylish, engrossing narrative.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-65877-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A welcome addition to the literature on immigration told by an author who understands the issue like few others.

THE UNDOCUMENTED AMERICANS

The debut book from “one of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard.”

In addition to delivering memorable portraits of undocumented immigrants residing precariously on Staten Island and in Miami, Cleveland, Flint, and New Haven, Cornejo Villavicencio, now enrolled in the American Studies doctorate program at Yale, shares her own Ecuadorian family story (she came to the U.S. at age 5) and her anger at the exploitation of hardworking immigrants in the U.S. Because the author fully comprehends the perils of undocumented immigrants speaking to journalist, she wisely built trust slowly with her subjects. Her own undocumented status helped the cause, as did her Spanish fluency. Still, she protects those who talked to her by changing their names and other personal information. Consequently, readers must trust implicitly that the author doesn’t invent or embellish. But as she notes, “this book is not a traditional nonfiction book….I took notes by hand during interviews and after the book was finished, I destroyed those notes.” Recounting her travels to the sites where undocumented women, men, and children struggle to live above the poverty line, she reports her findings in compelling, often heart-wrenching vignettes. Cornejo Villavicencio clearly shows how employers often cheat day laborers out of hard-earned wages, and policymakers and law enforcement agents exist primarily to harm rather than assist immigrants who look and speak differently. Often, cruelty arrives not only in economic terms, but also via verbal slurs and even violence. Throughout the narrative, the author explores her own psychological struggles, including her relationships with her parents, who are considered “illegal” in the nation where they have worked hard and tried to become model residents. In some of the most deeply revealing passages, Cornejo Villavicencio chronicles her struggles reconciling her desire to help undocumented children with the knowledge that she does not want "kids of my own." Ultimately, the author’s candor about herself removes worries about the credibility of her stories.

A welcome addition to the literature on immigration told by an author who understands the issue like few others.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-59268-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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