A revisionist look that won’t cheer America-firsters but that helps broaden our understanding of a crucial battle.

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LANDING ON THE EDGE OF ETERNITY

TWENTY-FOUR HOURS AT OMAHA BEACH

The Normandy invasion was a critical victory for the Allies. According to military historian Kershaw (24 Hours at the Somme: 1 July 1916, 2017, etc.), it could have been a crushing defeat.

If the other Normandy beaches that Allied troops stormed on June 6, 1944, had been as bloody as Omaha Beach, argues the author, a veteran of later wars, then Dwight Eisenhower might have had to send out the memo of defeat that he instead pocketed, the one that famously said, “if any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.” As it was, the Allies squeaked by. Studying the operation from a military point of view, without the stagy but effective set pieces of Cornelius Ryan and the political interests of Anthony Beevor, Kershaw describes an awful day of battle. Commendably, his account includes plenty of testimonials from the German side, which had all the advantages of the well-entrenched defender but a few odd weaknesses as well. For instance, unbeknownst to Allied intelligence, a heavily battle-tested German infantry division, with plenty of survivors of Stalingrad and other flashpoints, was well dug in near Omaha, which explains all the carnage Steven Spielberg so vividly depicted in Saving Private Ryan. At the same time, some of the German defenses, such as an anti-tank barrier, were just this side of Potemkin villages. The Germans knew invasion was coming; they just didn’t know quite where. But they were ready, with one grizzled commander ordering, “if possible, do not take prisoners under ten men.” That the American landing force survived Omaha at all—as it is, the day posted one of the greatest casualty counts of any battle Americans fought in—seems little short of a miracle and is evidence of how badly good intelligence is needed in any fight. That said, Kershaw singles out for praise numerous fighting elements, such as the U.S. Army Rangers, who helped break the German lines.

A revisionist look that won’t cheer America-firsters but that helps broaden our understanding of a crucial battle.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68177-866-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

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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