The author provides fascinating details (especially concerning Ukraine) about this fraught, historic time.

READ REVIEW

THE LAST EMPIRE

THE FINAL DAYS OF THE SOVIET UNION

A dour, authoritative look at the last bitter months of 1991 leading up to the Soviet Union’s collapse.

Plokhy (Ukrainian History/Harvard Univ.; The Cossack Myth: History and Nationhood in the Age of Empires, 2012, etc.) uses access to newly declassified documents and rich primary sources for a close study of these final decisive months, from the July summit in Moscow between President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and Gorbachev’s resignation from the defunct state on Christmas Day. Bush was sympathetic to the travails of Gorbachev and, unlike his predecessor, Ronald Reagan, wanted to proceed with caution as the satellite republics began to peel off from the Soviet motherland under Gorbachev’s new reform policies. The second most populous Soviet republic, Ukraine, was a prize neither Gorbachev nor Boris Yeltsin wanted to lose, however, as underscored in Bush’s unfortunate (for Ukrainian independence) “Chicken Kiev” speech, in which he drew a wishy-washy line between “freedom” and “independence.” Events hurtled to a climax as Gorbachev and his family were virtually imprisoned in his Crimean dacha by a “state of emergency” when the KGB hard-liners attempted a clumsy coup d’état—which very well might have succeeded in the old-school Soviet style if Yeltsin had not made a strong, public stance and Bush and the Western media not made their dissatisfaction known. Yeltsin and the Russian Federation emerged triumphant, with Gorbachev clearly in retreat, forced to ban the Communist Party at Yeltsin’s instigation. Once Ukraine grasped the new political landscape, its parliament voted overwhelmingly for independence, causing shock waves throughout the union. Plokhy delineates the nerve-wracking wrangling over maintaining some form of economic union of Slavic republics, up to the very end, while Bush and others supported Gorbachev and a Soviet center—which could not hold.

The author provides fascinating details (especially concerning Ukraine) about this fraught, historic time.

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-465-05696-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

  • National Book Award Winner

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

more