A footnote but one that will appeal to careful readers of modern European history.

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HITLER'S PAWN

THE BOY ASSASSIN AND THE HOLOCAUST

A blink-of-the-eye episode in the history of the Third Reich sets the events of Kristallnacht in motion, anticipating the years of terror that followed.

In 1938, a 17-year-old Jewish boy living in Paris, angry at the maltreatment of his family in Germany, bought a gun and, “never before having fired a weapon in his entire life, shot down the first German diplomat he saw.” It is a matter of some irony that the diplomat in question had “denounced Hitler as the antichrist,” writes Koch (The Breaking Point: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and the Murder of José Robles, 2005, etc.), but no matter; propelled to instant fame, Herschel Grynszpan provided an excuse for the Nazis to launch sweeping anti-Semitic campaigns in their homeland. When France capitulated, he disappeared into the judicial machine of the Third Reich with the idea that he would be brought up on a show trial to prove that the Jews had really started the war in Europe. Though young and seemingly without much guile, Grynszpan threatened an ingenious defense. Rather than allowing it to air, the Nazis effectively erased him from history—a history in which, by Koch’s account, he was a pawn, though one who may have understood exactly how he was being played and resisted accordingly. Koch is fond of arty flourishes (“While these demonic plans were being laid, this very young man, so recently a child, confronted history—monster history—alone and entirely defenseless”) but careful on matters of causation, noting that something like Kristallnacht would have happened anyway. Throughout, he places seemingly minor events against a much larger backdrop that takes in the murderous intent of the Hitler regime, the devotion of servants such as Joseph Goebbels to Nazism’s “Big Lie” (his service of which, Goebbels believed, would further “the transformation of humanity into a new order”), and the ultimate fate of the Jews of Europe.

A footnote but one that will appeal to careful readers of modern European history.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64009-144-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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