A good history of the war that questions some widely held opinions. Probably not the first thing to read, but anyone...




Just in time for the centennial of World War I, a look at the major campaigns and battles, with a heavy emphasis on the Western Front.

Imperial War Museum oral historian Hart (Gallipoli, 2011, etc.) uses firsthand accounts of the action to give his narrative immediacy. The sources range from frontline enlisted troops to the commanders in chief and national leaders, primarily English, French and German, echoing the author’s contention that the war was essentially decided on the Western Front. While he eyes the larger political agendas driving events on the battlefield, for the most part, Hart looks at the war through the views of those doing the fighting. So, for example, the Italian campaign features commentary by Rommel, a junior officer at the time. The book is broken into chapters looking at the action on a specific front, mostly organized chronologically. Campaigns Hart considers “sideshows”—Gallipoli, the Middle East, Italy, etc.—receive briefer chapters of their own. Hart does not minimize the courage or sacrifice of the troops in these actions, but he makes clear his view that they were distractions from the real work being done in France and Belgium. As a result, he is critical of the performance of the British in the early stages of the war, and he minimizes the impact of America’s entry. Germany, he argues, had to start the war when it did or else abandon its imperial ambitions. As a result, it was weaker militarily than it might have been. Hart also suggests that the French were primarily responsible for holding the line until the British, and eventually the U.S., could help turn the tide. The Germans, on the other hand, recognized early that their only hope was for a knockout blow—one they were never able to deliver.

A good history of the war that questions some widely held opinions. Probably not the first thing to read, but anyone interested in the war will find it a valuable supplement.

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-19-997627-0

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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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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