A fascinating chronicle that casts a welcome light on policies and procedures unknown by virtually all Americans.




Employing recently declassified documents, Grose (Gentleman Spy: The Life of Allen Dulles, 1994, etc.) pieces together the clandestine antiCommunist strategy that emerged in the US intelligence community after WWII.

Grose’s tale begins in 1946 as W. Averell Harriman, US ambassador in Moscow, yields to his successor, George F. Kennan, whose role in the emerging antiSoviet policy would be of ``central importance.'' By 1948, Kennan and others had developed a ``remarkable initiative'' (named Operation Rollback only after it was discovered in the 1990s) that would ``start with innocuous propaganda and persuasion, then proceed directly into sabotage, subversion, and paramilitary engagement.'' (Grose credits Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propagandist, with creating the phrase ``Iron Curtain,'' whose rollback this operation was intended to accomplish.) Postwar Europe was a ``pit of human and physical misery,'' with millions of people homeless or otherwise uprooted—a fertile field for Soviet expansion—and Western powers watched helplessly as Stalin indeed moved swiftly to dominate eastern Europe. Grose follows the careers of an impressive cast of characters on both sides of the Iron Curtain: Allen Dulles (who became CIA director), Kim Philby (the Soviet master spy whose efforts thwarted many of Rollback’s maneuvers), Whittaker Chambers, Alger Hiss, and William Sloane Coffin (a US agent during Rollback who later became an antiwar activist during the Vietnam conflict). By 1952, contends Grose, Rollback was spending $100 million, without even cursory congressional oversight. Some funds went for quixotic plans—like using highaltitude balloons to drop propaganda leaflets (``four hundred tons of reading matter'') on eastern Europe. Others went for the arming, training (incredibly, Dachau was one site), and deployment of small military forces whose incursions into Albania and even the Soviet Union itself were quickly stifled by local forces alerted in advance by Soviet intelligence, whose organization was ``far ahead of the West in building agent networks.''

A fascinating chronicle that casts a welcome light on policies and procedures unknown by virtually all Americans. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 4, 2000

ISBN: 0-395-51606-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet