Outstanding revisionist history demonstrating what could have been a far more peaceful 20th century.



An expert but disturbing account of a noble diplomatic failure.

Zelikow, who served as a diplomat for every presidential administration from Reagan to Obama, shines fresh light on a major historical crossroads. He shows how, had the war ended in 1916, it was possible that the 20th century would have proceeded without communist Russia or Nazi Germany. A mostly successful politician, Woodrow Wilson’s efforts were hobbled by an incompetent State Department and ignorance of diplomacy. His foreign policy advice came mostly from his friend Edward “Colonel” House, a wealthy Texan who traveled widely and, unlike Wilson, got along with everyone. With the fighting stalemated, Wilson sent House to Europe to propose peace. Neither side wanted to offend the U.S., and while most sought to end the fighting, no one dared commit publicly. Wilson was encouraged to schedule a conference, but he never demanded it. Zelikow is convincing in his disagreement with numerous historians who maintain that negotiations were impossible because neither side would compromise. In reality, powerful British leaders and the German chancellor took the idea seriously. Zelikow’s skillful account of the following year makes for frustrating reading: Wilson could have forced a conference but didn’t. In November 1916, when a financially exhausted Britain proposed selling bonds without collateral in America, Wilson vetoed it, producing panic. One British official, remarked, “If Wilson desired to put a stop to the war…such an achievement is in his power.” On Jan. 22, 1917, Wilson delivered his famous “peace without victory” speech. Though the reaction from the press was “overwhelmingly positive,” it consisted of high-sounding platitudes lacking action items. Readers may be surprised to learn that Germany’s Jan. 31 note announcing unrestricted submarine warfare also included a summary of peace terms, urging Wilson’s action. Offended by the first note, Wilson broke off relations, a decision the author believes was ill-advised. In the two months before America declared war, Wilson continued to muse about achieving peace, but the chance for negotiation with Germany had passed.

Outstanding revisionist history demonstrating what could have been a far more peaceful 20th century.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5417-5095-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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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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