A readable spy thriller that fights against the idea of “the original sin of women at war.”




A history/biography of a group of courageous women spies in World War II.

Most military historians agree that the anti-Nazi resistance played a critical role in reviving defeated nations’ self-respect after the war but contributed only modestly to the Allied victory. Hollywood and popular writers often disagree, and their number includes journalist Rose (For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History, 2010). Working diligently in the archives, the author turns up stories of Frenchwomen who found themselves in England after the war’s outbreak and volunteered to return to France to organize resistance groups, gather intelligence, and direct sabotage. Hollywood’s version would begin with “based on a true story…” and then make wholesale changes. Forced to stick closer to the facts, Rose delivers a swift-moving account that makes for sometimes-painful reading. French volunteers in the Resistance were overwhelmingly amateurs; sadly, this was also true of Britain’s military Special Operations Executive, which, cheered on by Churchill, recruited, dispatched, and supplied agents. Definitely not amateurs, Gestapo counterintelligence officers monitored radio transmissions, broke codes, transmitted their own disinformation, and arrested agents regularly. By 1943, the heart of the French Resistance and many of Rose’s subjects had been arrested or killed. By 1944, the Allies had gotten their act together, parachuting men and adequate supplies into France in preparation for the Normandy landings. Sabotage from the newly energized Resistance, including a few of Rose’s survivors, made it more difficult to send German reinforcements across France, and its strength grew as enemy forces disintegrated. A skilled journalist but also a member of the history-is-boring school of writing, the author adds novelistic touches throughout, such as her subjects’ inner thoughts and emotions. Readers who tolerate this approach will encounter an expert blow-by-blow account of the surprisingly tedious, always dangerous, and mostly short lives of some heroic women.

A readable spy thriller that fights against the idea of “the original sin of women at war.”

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-451-49508-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2019

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


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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