An important contribution to Holocaust literature.



A moving account of a family caught up in the Shoah.

In 1960, Italian Holocaust survivor Sonnino wrote a spare account of her experiences during World War II. Intended for her children, the manuscript stayed in her possession in a red leather binder; only in 2002, three years after her death, did her daughters permit its publication in an Italian newspaper. The author was one of six children in a Jewish family living in Genoa when the Germans swept through Italy in 1943 and 1944. She tells of the Sonninos’ attempt to hide and their eventual deportation to Auschwitz, where her parents and five siblings all died. The book’s most chilling passage comes early on. German-Jewish refugees flooded into Genoa in 1934, causing considerable economic hardship for those, like the author’s family, who tried to help them. No more came after 1935, and the Italians assumed that things in Germany had improved. “The death struggle of the German Jews had begun,” Sonnino writes, “and we were unaware of it.” Four illuminating essays bookend this slim memoir. David Denby acknowledges the “tinge of irritation and guilt” people often feel upon the publication of a Holocaust memoir, then brilliantly demonstrates why this one is necessary. He comments helpfully on Sonnino’s prose, noting that her writing becomes more terse and urgent as her narrative marches toward the camps. His arresting foreword is followed by a helpful sketch of the historical background from New Yorker editor Goldstein, who also crafted this wonderful English translation. An epilogue by Italian journalist Giacomo Papi describes how the manuscript came to light, and novelist Maria Doria Russell’s provocative afterword explains why Italian Jews fared relatively better than their brethren in the rest of Europe.

An important contribution to Holocaust literature.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-4039-7508-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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