A stronger authorial voice would have strengthened this book considerably.




Indomitable women, trapped in war.

In this troubling history of four American women caught in the Philippines during World War II, historian Kaminski (History/Univ. of Wisconsin-Stevens Point; Citizen of Empire: Ethel Thomas Herold, an American in the Philippines, 2011, etc.) presents her subjects as daring, selfless, determined, and astonishingly brave. Each aided the guerrilla movement, sent food and supplies to prisoners of war, and risked their lives. The author focuses most intensively on two: Peggy Utinsky, a nurse who arrived in Manila in the 1920s, was widowed when her husband died of influenza, and in 1934 married an Army lieutenant. Claire Phillips came in 1938, looking for adventure and a career in show business. She soon met a handsome Filipino who worked as a ship’s steward, and after a brief courtship, they married. When that marriage unraveled, Claire sailed to America, only to return in 1941, when she met Pvt. John Phillips, whom she thereafter claimed was her husband. Drawing on Claire’s and Peggy’s memoirs, Claire’s FBI files, and published and unpublished memoirs of POWs and military personnel, Kaminski paints a vivid picture of the horrors of the Japanese occupation: the Bataan Death March, epidemics of malaria and dysentery, widespread beriberi and pellagra. She details Claire’s part in an underground movement, based in a nightclub she opened; Peggy established an organization called Miss U that provided prisoner relief. Both women were eventually arrested, and the author relates the torture, beatings, and starvation they suffered. But did they? Co-workers disputed their accounts: Peggy was not tortured for a month, emerging half-dead, but was questioned for only a few days and bore no bruises; Claire exaggerated her wartime work to outlandish proportions. Kaminski blames PTSD for Claire’s deception and possible alcoholism for Peggy’s, but some readers may wonder what in the narrative is verifiable history. Furthermore, the author frequently changes tenses, even midsentence, which makes for jarring reading.

A stronger authorial voice would have strengthened this book considerably.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-19-992824-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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