A winner: the stories are fascinating, the pages nearly turn themselves, and La Rochefoucauld is a true hero.

THE SABOTEUR

THE ARISTOCRAT WHO BECAME FRANCE'S MOST DARING ANTI-NAZI COMMANDO

The page-turning tale of a World War II hero who would fit comfortably into any good spy thriller.

Robert de La Rochefoucauld (1923-2012), the subject of this thrilling debut biography by ESPN The Magazine deputy editor Kix, was a descendent of one of the most legendary families in European history. The family traced their beginnings to 900 C.E. and included a duke in Louis XVI’s court as well as two brothers martyred in the Reign of Terror. Another, a friend of Benjamin Franklin’s, fought to end slavery. Serving the nation was in La Rochefoucauld’s blood; his father was awarded the Legion of Honor, and the war sent Robert out to battle as well. He was 17 when German bombers descended on his home northeast of Paris. It wasn’t the first time; the estate was captured and recaptured more than a dozen times during World War I, requiring complete rebuilding. As France fell to Germany, La Rochefoucauld was glued to the wireless broadcasts of Charles de Gaulle. Determined to join him, he left home. His adventures began almost immediately, as he was trying to get to Spain and then to England, which required trusting strangers and connecting with résistants. In London, he was convinced to join a new British organization, the Special Operations Executive, a highly secretive group that was formed to train and equip foreign nationals in sabotage and guerrilla warfare. La Rochefoucaul went through the rigorous training in Southampton and Scotland and was sent to France, where he met Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the head of the “Alliance” intelligence network, and got to work, which involved destroying the most important parts of factories, minimizing deaths. Throughout, Kix proves to be an adept biographer, avoiding hagiography. It’s all true: the bombings, betrayals, and significant successes, right down to his escape as he was being driven to his execution—and all before he was 21.

A winner: the stories are fascinating, the pages nearly turn themselves, and La Rochefoucauld is a true hero.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-232252-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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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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