A wise, elegant study to add to the World War I archives.



An intriguing work of World War I research resurrects the little-known history of a massive German luxury liner that was confiscated and retooled for the American war effort.

In this lively look at the history of the Leviathan, once known as the SS Vaterland, the flagship of the Hamburg-American Line, Chicago Tribune editor Hernon (8.4, 1999, etc.), who was also an investigative reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, unearths a fresh aspect of America’s war effort. The ship, cruising into New York Harbor from Hamburg in late July 1914, was the largest vessel afloat at 950 feet—67 feet longer than the Titanic, which had perished disastrously at sea two years earlier. Due to that earlier disaster, the Vaterland was equipped with enough lifeboats for the 5,000-plus passengers and crew, both first-class and steerage. Yet the German crew of this behemoth was quickly halted in its efforts to prepare the vessel for a quick turnaround: war was declared in Europe in the beginning days of August, and along with other German ocean liners, the Vaterland would spend the next three years tied up in a Hoboken, New Jersey, pier. Using alternating points of view of some of the characters involved—e.g., Saturday Evening Post reporter Irvin Cobb and U.S. Navy officers and changing skippers—Hernon chronicles the tension of these early days when the U.S. was just declaring war on Germany and German ships lying in American harbors were being deliberately sabotaged before falling into American hands. Eventually, the Vaterland was refitted as the Leviathan and was packed with 10,000 American Expeditionary Force troops under the direction of Gen. John Pershing. The ship ferried them to the battlefields of France and back, through nightmarish submarine attacks, from December 1917 through the Armistice. Hernon also chronicles the contributions of decorated African-American troops.

A wise, elegant study to add to the World War I archives.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-243386-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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...


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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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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