Brilliantly contrarian history.

STALIN'S WAR

A NEW HISTORY OF WORLD WAR II

A sweeping reassessment of World War II seeking to “illuminate critical matters long obscured by the obsessively German-centric literature” on the subject.

Veteran historian McMeekin states bluntly that while Hitler wanted war, Stalin wanted it more. A loyal Marxist, he had no doubt that capitalist nations—among which he included Nazi Germany—were doomed. According to the author, throughout the 1930s, as war became more likely, Stalin worked to ensure that it would leave his enemies exhausted and ripe for revolution. The 1939 nonaggression pact between the Soviet Union and Germany seemed a dazzling coup for both nations, but Stalin got greedy. Piggybacking on Hitler’s early victories, he snatched as much territory as Nazi Germany. As a result, several hundred miles of buffer between the Soviet Union and Germany disappeared, making Hitler’s 1941 surprise attack possible. In his account of the titanic campaign that followed, McMeekin pays more attention than most military historians to the loathsome behavior of both sides to civilians and even their own soldiers. He shows less sympathy than most to Stalin’s insults and demands for aid from the Allies and none whatsoever for Soviet representatives vacuuming up America’s patents, technology, and services. The author maintains that Nazism vanished in 1945, but “the Soviet legacy lives on in the Communist governments of China, North Korea, and Vietnam, countries on which Hitler’s short-lived Reich left not even a shadow.” He adds that Allied efforts to cultivate Stalin before Hitler’s invasion failed, and the massive American support afterward was entirely selfish. Consequently, the Soviets, having done most of the fighting, emerged with most of the fruits of victory. The author’s provocative suggestion that America should have allowed the two evil empires to fight it out will ruffle feathers, but it effectively kills the idea that WWII was a battle of good vs. evil. Yet another winner for McMeekin, this also serves as a worthy companion to Niall Ferguson’s The Pity of War, which argued that Britain should not have entered World War I.

Brilliantly contrarian history.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5416-7279-6

Page Count: 864

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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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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