A fairly perfunctory overview, but sufficiently engaging and well-written. For a more lively, probing social history, see...




An account of the British Empire’s abrupt decline in influence around the globe following World War II.

Clarke (Modern British History/Cambridge Univ.; Hope and Glory: Britain 1900–2000, 2004, etc.) takes a look at the pivotal events that shaped Great Britain’s fortunes following the nationwide jubilation of 1945 and also examines how America evolved into a worldwide superpower. The “thousand days” of the title covers a stretch between 1944 and 1947. The author presents a clear, detailed account of events, casting Winston Churchill as the key figure at the center of Britain’s postwar misfortunes. A brief prologue outlines how Britain headed into shaky economic territory during the war, with huge debts accrued in Churchill’s valiant effort to emerge victorious from battle. Then, drawing on disclosures from diaries belonging to figures such as Churchill’s Assistant Private Secretary, Sir John Colville, and the former prime minister’s personal physician, Lord Moran, as well as information drawn from contemporary newspapers, Clarke examines how Anglo-American relations fractured in the postwar era. In particular, he frequently returns to the Lend-Lease agreement, which was set up so the United States could provide the allied nations with various wartime supplies. The complications inherent in such a deal helped trigger the enormous friction between the two countries once the war ended. America was no longer willing to loan vast sums of money unless its allies pulled out of India and Palestine; this, in turn, led to the dissolution of the British Empire. Clarke concludes by recalling the negotiations that led to Britain’s loss of India, offering some enlightening details on Gandhi’s involvement in the process. There are few revelations here, although the author occasionally fleshes out a familiar story with amusing anecdotes, such as those about Churchill’s frequently erratic behavior during important meetings.

A fairly perfunctory overview, but sufficiently engaging and well-written. For a more lively, probing social history, see David Kynaston’s Austerity Britain: 1945–51 (2008).

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59691-531-2

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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...


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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