World War II was a crucible that forged the modern identities of South Asian nations in ways rarely acknowledged since....




Though the story is overshadowed today by the cataclysmic aftereffects of independence and partition, India during World War II raised the largest volunteer fighting force in history, ineluctably altering the nation’s social structure and political makeup.

Raghavan (Defense Studies/King’s Coll. London; 1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh, 2013, etc.), a military historian and former Indian infantry officer, unearths a period of India’s history customarily consigned to the dustbin as the last gasp of an antiquated colonial system. Even amid mounting opposition to the crown, the Indian political classes widely recognized that the British Empire should be supported in its struggle with Hitler, and “New Delhi and London knew that the Raj would be called upon to make a major contribution to the defense of countries that traditionally fell under its sphere of influence.” Between 1939 and 1945, the size of the Indian army increased tenfold, and Raghavan examines the rapidly shifting political alliances within and among the Congress Party, the Muslim League, and the princely states, the performance of the new soldiers on battlefields from North Africa to Malaya, and the massive domestic disruptions caused by recruiting and shipping out well over 2 million young men. While certain chapters belabor the minutiae of troop movements and formations, the author is more compelling when addressing the constraints and paradoxes faced by Indians battling fascism on behalf of an empire that still deemed them unworthy of exercising self-governance and relied on an Orientalist conception of “martial races” to plan recruiting efforts. The strategic needs of British divisions always came first, and Indian troops were moved around with little regard for their preparation or aptitude. In the hapless Southeast Asian campaigns, writes the author, “[t]he brigade [in Burma] had done little training for jungle warfare either in India or Burma,” and the officers “showed little interest in organized training.”

World War II was a crucible that forged the modern identities of South Asian nations in ways rarely acknowledged since. While overlong, this book illuminates that period.

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-465-03022-4

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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...


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?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?