An important, well-told tale of China at war.




A retelling of China’s war of resistance from 1937 to 1945 against a brutal and murderous Japanese invasion and how that experience helped shape the China of today.

“China,” writes Mitter (Modern Chinese History/Oxford Univ.; Modern China: A Very Short Introduction, 2008, etc.), “remains the forgotten ally.” China was the first nation to resist Axis aggression and for eight bloody years, never stopped fighting, at the cost of between 14 and 20 million deaths. Mitter focuses primarily on Chiang Kai-shek, the Nationalist Party leader who, in the 1920s, nominally unified China and tried, unsuccessfully, to destroy the Chinese Communist Party. The author offers a more nuanced portrait of a complex man with great ambitions for a modern China who faced bitter odds as the Japanese moved inexorably across China. Mitter shows a man both capable of inspiring intense national loyalty and also of committing acts of immense cruelty. In 1938, in an attempt to halt the Japanese advance, he ordered the destruction of the dykes holding back the Yellow River; 500,000 Chinese died. Chiang’s order to requisition grain from central China led to famine for millions of Chinese. Mitter traces the slow disintegration into “corruption, carelessness, and callousness” of both Chiang and the Nationalist Party as the war with Japan dragged on. During the war years, Chiang had created a national identity for China from which much was expected of the Chinese people but who, in turn, expected much from their government. The Nationalists could not keep their side of the bargain; in the end, the Communists could. There are many side tales and numerous other characters in the book, yet Mitter’s narrative élan, in the manner of David McCullough, creates a complex history that is urgently alive.

An important, well-told tale of China at war.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-618-89425-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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