Intimate and memorable portraits of these idealistic, daredevil young men are contained in a marvelously fluid narrative.



A deeply empathetic account of the first gentlemen pilots feeling their ways in uncharted territory.

A World War II pilot who caught the fever of flying as a youth, accomplished literary scholar Hynes (Emeritus, Literature/Princeton Univ.; Flights of Passage: Recollections of a World War II Aviator, 2005, etc.) sifts through the letters and diaries of young American men who were eager to enlist in the European war effort as an opportunity or an ideal. Well before the United States entered the war in April 1917, seven Americans had trained with the French in what became the Lafayette Escadrille as early as 1914. Mainly from well-to-do families and Ivy League–educated, they approached flying as a dangerous sport, much like sailing or polo. (Some notable exceptions: Bert Hall, a Paris taxi driver and drifter, and the legendary Eddie Rickenbacker, a somewhat older, non–college educated race car driver who only garners peripheral attention here.) Hynes moves gradually through the paces these early pilots had to learn, since aviation was in its infancy and the U.S. was “ill-equipped, ill-trained and undermanned” and had no air service to speak of until Hiram Bingham, professor of South American history at Yale and a pilot, was appointed in 1917 to plan a training program and mold the ideal pilot candidate. Besides learning literally from the ground up by piloting Blériot XI aircraft around the French flight fields and mastering the skills of aerobatics (looping), formation, vol de combat and gunnery, the novice pilots had to navigate the perils of being abroad for the first time: namely, wine, women and Paris. Tight friendships and sudden, inexplicable deaths brought home sobering truths.

Intimate and memorable portraits of these idealistic, daredevil young men are contained in a marvelously fluid narrative.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-27800-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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