An eloquent dive into World War I cemeteries, monuments, mines, and trenches.




A journey back to the French rural landscape where so many American soldiers fell during World War I.

Maine-based journalist and author Rubin (The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War, 2013, etc.) offers a fine on-the-ground account of some of the iconic battles of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, during which the Americans helped turn the tide finally against the Germans in late 1918. Readers following in Rubin’s scramble across the largely unmarked rural terrain will need a solid background to the actual fighting since, in many places, the author (who does not speak French) felt like he was the only “Anglophone tourist” who had been there since 1918. Artifact hunting is a serious avocation in these parts, and Rubin admits that one should be mentored in the pursuit, as he was for his previous research by Jean-Paul de Vries, the proprietor of a relics museum in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon. The author examines the sites of the most terrible battles missed by the Americans during the first months of the war: Verdun, the Somme, Ypres. The young doughboys of the American Expeditionary Forces were eager to join the fighting, which occurred in Bathelémont, where the first Americans fell in November 1917. Rubin explored the eerie chalk mines on the so-called Chemins des Dames, where the Yankee Division took shelter in early 1918 and where the walls are scrawled with American graffiti, in effect “their last will and testament.” From there, Rubin visited Château-Thierry on the Marne, where Gen. John Pershing’s Americans engaged the German Spring Offensive of 1918, including the legendary Battle of Belleau. Indeed, it was the Americans—and only the Americans—who could drive the Germans back, retaking the occupied territory held for four years. Throughout the book, Rubin sounds his theme of the Americans being crucial to France’s ultimate freedom (as amply recognized by the grateful French).

An eloquent dive into World War I cemeteries, monuments, mines, and trenches.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-08432-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


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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