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DREADNOUGHT

BRITAIN, GERMANY, AND THE COMING OF THE GREAT WAR

Here, as with his Pulitzer Prize-winning Peter the Great (1980), Massie disdains the virtues of literary economy. Yet this history of pre-WW I super-rivalry is much more than an imposing doorstop, for the author is a master of the Barbara Tuchman/William Manchester school of popular history. If there is a villain of this epic, it is Germany's Kaiser William II. Autocratic, bellicose, and tactless enough to refer to British ministers as ``unmitigated noodles,'' he understandably grieved his grandmother and uncle, Britain's Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). In his desire for Weltmacht (world power), William, in 1887, decided to complement the world's most powerful army with a formidable battle fleet, so alarming Great Britain that it ended its foreign policy of ``Splendid Isolation'' from Continental affairs and began a frantic shipbuilding program of its own. Massie follows the fortunes of the two countries through colonial disputes, secret understandings with former foes, high-wire diplomacy, and tit-for-tat building of dreadnoughts (the class of fast, all-big-gun battleships named for the innovative British vessel built in 1906). Like 19th-century novelists, Massie employs an epic narrative that leisurely explores characters, including such military and political figures as Admirals Alfred von Tirpitz and John Fisher, the commanders who radically transformed their countries' naval defenses; Bernard von Bulow, the cynical German Chancellor who ``lacked purpose, scruples, courage, and a vision of his own''; and Winston Churchill. A dramatic re-creation of the diplomatic minuets and military brinkmanship that preceded, and made inevitable, the guns of August 1914 and the resulting catastrophes of this century. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs; maps.) (Book-of-the-Month Split Main Selection for December)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 1991

ISBN: 0-394-52833-6

Page Count: 1004

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991

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NIGHT

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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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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