A fine work, as winning in its production as it is riveting in its contents, for everyone captivated by the Civil War.

EYE OF THE STORM

A CIVIL WAR ODYSSEY

The most significant parts of an extraordinary, recently discovered Civil War memoir, created in art as well as word, see the first light of day.

Sneden, a Canadian immigrant into Connecticut, joined the Union forces as a young man of 29, served in some of the worst fighting in Virginia, was captured and interned under the awful conditions of Andersonville, and lived to tell his tale. He told it in a postwar memoir (based on voluminous diaries, still lost) and a series of vivid, affecting watercolor drawings and maps, only recently found and only now becoming known. The watercolors, many of them reproduced here in beautiful renderings, record as few other known battlefield artworks the realities of fighting and imprisonment. Sneden's maps have the brilliance both of guides to land and structures and of true artistry. Fortunately, the written reports of what this soldier saw match the images captured in his art. They reveal a sensibility stripped by battle of any Victorian excess. Modern in their understatement, powerful in their simplicity and directness, they not only provide a record of the engagements and situations in which Sneden found himself—they sweep the reader along by their force and clarity. Bryan and Lankford (both of the Virginia Historical Society) have pared Sneden's manuscript memoir and selected its freshest and most compelling parts in a high act of editorial scholarship. The result is one of the most compelling additions to Civil War literature in many years.

A fine work, as winning in its production as it is riveting in its contents, for everyone captivated by the Civil War.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-684-86365-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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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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