An outstanding work of popular history, in the spirit of William Manchester and Bruce Catton.

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THE GUNS AT LAST LIGHT

THE WAR IN WESTERN EUROPE, 1944-1945

Atkinson (The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, 2007, etc.) brings his Liberation Trilogy to a resounding close.

The war, of course, ended in Allied victory—though, it often seems even in these closing pages, just barely. Among the challenges were not just a ferocious German war machine that refused to stop grinding, but an Allied effort often hampered by internal disagreements and the inevitable jockeying for power. One skillful player was British general Bernard Montgomery, whom Atkinson captures with a gesture in an opening set piece: “With a curt swish of his pointer, Montgomery stepped to the great floor map.” That map provided a visual survey of Overlord, the great 1944 multipronged invasion of Normandy, of which the author’s long account is masterful and studded with facts and figures. Many of the key actors—Eisenhower, Patton—will be well-known to American readers, but others will not, not least of them Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the oldest general at D-Day and perhaps the bravest as well. American readers may also not know that British and Canadian troops landed elsewhere in Normandy on that day and paid a fearful price; Atkinson is to be commended for giving equal billing to those Allies. Toward the end, those Western Allies finally worked out some of their big differences, just in time for the final savage campaign of winter 1944–1945, which included the Battle of the Bulge. Atkinson assumes little outside knowledge of his readers, so his story is largely self-contained; as such, with the other volumes in the trilogy, it makes a superb introduction to a complex episode in world history.

An outstanding work of popular history, in the spirit of William Manchester and Bruce Catton.

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0805062908

Page Count: 896

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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...

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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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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