An excellent study by a thorough chronicler that adds considerably to the historical record.

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POLAND 1939

THE OUTBREAK OF WORLD WAR II

A fresh, well-documented look at the Nazi-Soviet invasion and partition of Poland in September 1939, rejecting both “the Nazi mythology of an easy Blitzkrieg victory” and “the Soviet lie that the Red Army never invaded at all.”

An accomplished British historian of World War II, Moorhouse delves deeply into this five-week opening to the larger conflict, showing how it presaged the horrors to come. The author notes how this campaign—during which Hitler restoked the animosity between Poland and Germany through a series of fabricated border skirmishes and plunged headlong into invasion to quell Polish “terror” and defend German “honor”—is too often overlooked in WWII histories. Just as he did in his previous book, The Devil’s Alliance: Hitler's Pact With Stalin, 1939-1941 (2014), Moorhouse refreshingly looks beyond the chronicles of the victors, clearly portraying the shameful lack of action on the parts of Britain and France to come to the defense of the country it had sworn to defend as well as the ongoing Soviet efforts to disguise its subsequent invasion as some kind of “humanitarian intervention.” The fact is that Hitler and Stalin had already agreed to divide the country via a German-Soviet nonaggression pact, which would have essentially wiped Poland off the map. While the British and French vowed to protect the country if attacked, they were in no military position to do so and hoped, futilely, that by threatening war, Germany would back down. What the author demonstrates splendidly is the tenacity of the Polish resistance and bravery in the face of the Nazi onslaught, a spirit inculcated through centuries of invasion and occupation. This was not an easy annexation, as the Nazis had hoped. Moreover, as Moorhouse ably shows, the overwhelming air power and targeting of noncombatants, as well as racial murder and revenge, foreshadowed later atrocities.

An excellent study by a thorough chronicler that adds considerably to the historical record. (16-page insert; 10 maps)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-465-09538-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Finely honed biographical intuition and a novelist’s sensibility make for a stylish, engrossing narrative.

THE MAN IN THE RED COAT

A fresh, urbane history of the dramatic and melodramatic belle epoque.

When Barnes (The Only Story, 2018, etc.), winner of the Man Booker Prize and many other literary awards, first saw John Singer Sargent’s striking portrait of Dr. Samuel Pozzi—handsome, “virile, yet slender,” dressed in a sumptuous scarlet coat—he was intrigued by a figure he had not yet encountered in his readings about 19th-century France. The wall label revealed that Pozzi was a gynecologist; a magazine article called him “not only the father of French gynecology, but also a confirmed sex addict who routinely attempted to seduce his female patients.” The paradox of healer and exploiter posed an alluring mystery that Barnes was eager to investigate. Pozzi, he discovered, succeeded in his amorous affairs as much as in his acclaimed career. “I have never met a man as seductive as Pozzi,” the arrogant Count Robert de Montesquiou recalled; Pozzi was a “man of rare good sense and rare good taste,” “filled with knowledge and purpose” as well as “grace and charm.” The author’s portrait, as admiring as Sargent’s, depicts a “hospitable, generous” man, “rich by marriage, clubbable, inquisitive, cultured and well travelled,” and brilliant. The cosmopolitan Pozzi, his supercilious friend Montesquiou, and “gentle, whimsical” Edmond de Polignac are central characters in Barnes’ irreverent, gossipy, sparkling history of the belle epoque, “a time of vast wealth for the wealthy, of social power for the aristocracy, of uncontrolled and intricate snobbery, of headlong colonial ambition, of artistic patronage, and of duels whose scale of violence often reflected personal irascibility more than offended honor.” Dueling, writes the author, “was not just the highest form of sport, it also required the highest form of manliness.” Barnes peoples his history with a spirited cast of characters, including Sargent and Whistler, Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt (who adored Pozzi), Henry James and Proust, Pozzi’s diarist daughter, Catherine, and unhappy wife, Therese, and scores more.

Finely honed biographical intuition and a novelist’s sensibility make for a stylish, engrossing narrative.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-65877-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to...

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CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

A French academic serves up a long, rigorous critique, dense with historical data, of American-style predatory capitalism—and offers remedies that Karl Marx might applaud.

Economist Piketty considers capital, in the monetary sense, from the vantage of what he considers the capital of the world, namely Paris; at times, his discussions of how capital works, and especially public capital, befit Locke-ian France and not Hobbesian America, a source of some controversy in the wide discussion surrounding his book. At heart, though, his argument turns on well-founded economic principles, notably r > g, meaning that the “rate of return on capital significantly exceeds the growth rate of the economy,” in Piketty’s gloss. It logically follows that when such conditions prevail, then wealth will accumulate in a few hands faster than it can be broadly distributed. By the author’s reckoning, the United States is one of the leading nations in the “high inequality” camp, though it was not always so. In the colonial era, Piketty likens the inequality quotient in New England to be about that of Scandinavia today, with few abject poor and few mega-rich. The difference is that the rich now—who are mostly the “supermanagers” of business rather than the “superstars” of sports and entertainment—have surrounded themselves with political shields that keep them safe from the specter of paying more in taxes and adding to the fund of public wealth. The author’s data is unassailable. His policy recommendations are considerably more controversial, including his call for a global tax on wealth. From start to finish, the discussion is written in plainspoken prose that, though punctuated by formulas, also draws on a wide range of cultural references.

Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to work explaining the most complex of ideas, foremost among them the fact that economic inequality is at an all-time high—and is only bound to grow worse.

Pub Date: March 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-674-43000-6

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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