An appealing, if necessarily fictionalized in places, portrait of three officers who did their best fighting a war widely...

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FARTHEST FIELD

A STORY OF INDIA’S SECOND WORLD WAR

Discovering that his grandfather and two grand uncles had served in World War II, Indian journalist and editor Karnad (Everybody’s Friend, 2013) decided to write about their experiences.

Since the author’s subjects left no personal documents, the result is less a biography than a docudrama, but it is an engrossing, revealing account of his nation’s role in that war, a subject that receives only a passing mention in many history books. The Bangalore- and New Delhi–based author’s family was Parsi, one of a dizzying number of ethnic minorities; they were not Hindu or Muslim, largely middle-class, and not opposed to British rule. Financial need and a yearning for adventure directed the brothers to officers’ training for Britain’s Indian Army, a force that ultimately numbered 2,500,000, the largest volunteer army in history. One joined the Indian Air Force, where his first assignment was bombing Afghanistan from bases in what is now Pakistan, an activity still in progress 75 years later. He never left India and died in a crash before the end of the war. A brother, who was a doctor, also died on the Afghan frontier, probably of pneumonia. The third, a lieutenant in the sappers (combat engineers supporting the infantry), fumed at his inactivity for years until he was caught up in the vicious and immense campaign (Britain’s largest and longest of WWII) to recapture Burma, where he was killed in late 1944. The author re-creates their lives and thoughts through unit records, memoirs, and interviews with elderly survivors.

An appealing, if necessarily fictionalized in places, portrait of three officers who did their best fighting a war widely opposed by many countrymen and that provided little benefit to the nation and was quickly forgotten after Indian independence in 1947.

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-393-24809-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

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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