A masterly, painstakingly researched study incorporating the urgent stories of the resisters themselves.

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FIGHTERS IN THE SHADOWS

A NEW HISTORY OF THE FRENCH RESISTANCE

Scrupulous, evenhanded reconsideration of the fighters of the French Resistance and how the patriotic myth became central to the identity of postwar France.

Employing a refreshing approach to the history of this traumatic epoch by sticking with firsthand testimony, both written and oral, Gildea (Modern History/Univ. of Oxford; Children of the Revolution: The French, 1799-1914, 2008, etc.) restores some of the marginalized voices so crucial to the story: women, communists, and foreigners. Contrary to Charles de Gaulle’s official line that France was liberated by the French—that there was a “continuous thread of resistance” from the time of his initial rally from his London exile in June 1940 through liberation in August 1944 and that only a few dastardly French collaborated with the enemy—the real story is much more complicated. The majority of the French opted to “muddle through” and indeed revered and trusted the great World War I hero Philippe Pétain rather than embrace the upstart de Gaulle. Who were these early brave resisters to the German invasion? The term “patriotism” definitely meant different things to different people: the children of WWI veterans, who acted out of filial piety and family honor; those radicalized by the Spanish Civil War and who had fought against fascism in the International Brigades; political idealists who hoped to bring about a “brave new world,” such as working-class communists; immigrant refugees from fascism; and women bereft of husbands and sons, throwing themselves into activities such as sheltering downed Allied airmen, spreading propaganda, and even engaging in armed struggle. Gildea proceeds step by step in the buildup to resistance, which required both an internal and external network, especially from de Gaulle’s Allied base in London. Moreover, the liberation by the Americans of North Africa in November 1942 proved to be the “hinge” in galvanizing resistance and clarifying the Vichy versus Free French struggle.

A masterly, painstakingly researched study incorporating the urgent stories of the resisters themselves.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-674-28610-8

Page Count: 590

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 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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At nearly 1,000 pages, Chernow delivers a deeply researched, everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know biography, but few readers...

GRANT

A massive biography of the Civil War general and president, who “was the single most important figure behind Reconstruction.”

Most Americans know the traditional story of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885): a modest but brutal general who pummeled Robert E. Lee into submission and then became a bad president. Historians changed their minds a generation ago, and acclaimed historian Chernow (Washington: A Life, 2010, etc.), winner of both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, goes along in this doorstop of a biography, which is admiring, intensely detailed, and rarely dull. A middling West Point graduate, Grant performed well during the Mexican War but resigned his commission, enduring seven years of failure before getting lucky. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he was the only West Point graduate in the area, so local leaders gave him a command. Unlike other Union commanders, he was aggressive and unfazed by setbacks. His brilliant campaign at Vicksburg made him a national hero. Taking command of the Army of the Potomac, he forced Lee’s surrender, although it took a year. Easily elected in 1868, he was the only president who truly wanted Reconstruction to work. Despite achievements such as suppressing the Ku Klux Klan, he was fighting a losing battle. Historian Richard N. Current wrote, “by backing Radical Reconstruction as best he could, he made a greater effort to secure the constitutional rights of blacks than did any other President between Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson.” Recounting the dreary scandals that soiled his administration, Chernow emphasizes that Grant was disastrously lacking in cynicism. Loyal to friends and susceptible to shady characters, he was an easy mark, and he was fleeced regularly throughout his life. In this sympathetic biography, the author continues the revival of Grant’s reputation.

At nearly 1,000 pages, Chernow delivers a deeply researched, everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know biography, but few readers will regret the experience. For those seeking a shorter treatment, turn to Josiah Bunting’s Ulysses S. Grant (2004).

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59420-487-6

Page Count: 928

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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