A book that can rest on the coffee tables of military history buffs, serious readers should look elsewhere.

THE FIRST WORLD WAR

An attractively illustrated (if rather shallow) history of the major events of WWI, Prior and Wilson’s (Command on the Western Front,1992; Passchendaele: The Untold Story,1996) book is part of a multi-volume series on the history of war from ancient to modern times.

Packed with striking photographs of battles and prominent individuals, the real surprises in this book are the maps that detail specific military maneuvers through unfamiliar geographies. For example, maps of the complex troop and naval movements around the Dardanelles bring to life the hard choices faced by British and French war planners. Focusing on the great battles in France and Russia, Prior and Wilson also detail significant actions in the Middle East and Africa. Even though important naval engagements are excluded, they will be profiled in a separate volume on the history of warfare at sea. Graphic and editorial details aside, the book is filled with historical and moral judgments that range from the outrageous to the banal. How can any genuine student of military and diplomatic history accept the authors’ tired conclusion that primary responsibility for the war rested with German militarists? We would expect that explanation from French and British diplomats in 1919, not from contemporary historians. Moreover, Prior and Wilson seem to share the French high command’s view of the mutinies that disrupted more than 70 divisions in 1917. They congratulate the generals on their response to the revolt: allowing more leave, bettering living conditions, and only ordering a token number of executions (from 50 to 70). More executions, the authors point out, might have had “dangerous” consequences for military order, as if that value had any legitimacy for anyone but generals after three years of butchery. Prior and Wilson fail to describe the feelings of worn-out soldiers about such lofty values as military order. For that matter, they fail to describe the feelings of any of the millions who faced each other in the mud, citing only the statistics of their deaths.

A book that can rest on the coffee tables of military history buffs, serious readers should look elsewhere.

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-304-35256-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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