The author’s emphasis on the personalities of the period transform what could have been a dry explication of war policy into...

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TO KEEP THE BRITISH ISLES AFLOAT

FDR’S MEN IN CHURCHILL’S LONDON, 1941

Popular historian Parrish (The Submarine: A History, 2004, etc.) looks at the people behind Franklin Roosevelt’s lend-lease program with England.

After France fell to the Nazis in 1940, President Roosevelt wondered if England, with American assistance, would be able to hold off invading German armies. At the time, the United States was officially neutral in the conflict, but Roosevelt was determined to do everything in his power to stop Hitler. His “lend-lease” plan sought to supply critical war materials to England and other allies, but he wanted to know if England, and especially Winston Churchill, would be a safe bet. He sent his close friend and advisor Harry Hopkins to England in early 1941 to size up the prime minister. Though Churchill had a reputation for recklessness and drunkenness, Hopkins was impressed with him immediately, and provided a glowing endorsement: “Churchill is the gov’t in every sense of the word,” he wrote. “This island needs our help now Mr. President with everything we can give them.” Soon the lend-lease program was in full swing; England would receive more than $30 billion in supplies during the war. Roosevelt sent another friend, businessman Averell Harriman, to oversee the London end of the operation. “I want you to go over to London,” Roosevelt told him, “and recommend everything that we can do, short of war, to keep the British Isles afloat.” Parrish brings many of the men involved to vibrant life—particularly Hopkins, a likable, energetic character who died of stomach cancer at the age of 55, just after World War II.

The author’s emphasis on the personalities of the period transform what could have been a dry explication of war policy into a page-turner.

Pub Date: May 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-135793-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Smithsonian/Collins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2009

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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