A gossipy, occasionally entertaining who’s who that eventually grows tiresome and repetitive.

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THE HOTEL ON PLACE VENDÔME

LIFE, DEATH, AND BETRAYAL AT THE HOTEL RITZ IN PARIS

Another breathless exposé of French horizontal collaboration from cultural historian Mazzeo (English/Colby Coll.; The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World's Most Famous Perfume, 2010, etc.).

The author was warned by an aged Resistance widow not to take up this story of the Hotel Ritz as a happy collaborationist playground since everyone involved lied. The “collective French national fantasy” is that everyone helped the Resistance, yet in reality, very few actually did. Mazzeo struggles structurally with how to tell this story, first introducing the cast of characters and habitués of the Ritz, opened in 1898 in the midst of the Dreyfus Affair by Swiss founders Marie-Louise and César Ritz. Marcel Proust epitomized the group of modern artists and intellectuals and rich American transplants who frequented the hotel. The author then moves through the surrealist mood at the hotel in 1917, during World War I, before touching on the arrival of the Germans in 1940, when the wealthy regular occupants were forced to give up their quarters to German officer Herman Goring and others. Mazzeo then leaps to 1944 just before the liberation of Paris by French and American troops, which sent certain French notables into a panic as their wartime love affairs were public knowledge—e.g., Marcel Carné’s favored actress Arletty, who enjoyed her Nazi lieutenant Hans-Jürgen Soehring, and, of course, Coco Chanel and her own German lover Hans von Dincklage. Mazzeo delights in the story of Ernest Hemingway’s competitive swagger to secure the Ritz first and enjoy its wine cellar before his buddies Robert Capa and others could get there and the numerous “dame reporters” like Martha Gellhorn and Lee Miller, who made it all interesting. Stolen art, double agents, a legendary bartender passing notes to the Resistance: This is a rich, messy history.

A gossipy, occasionally entertaining who’s who that eventually grows tiresome and repetitive.

Pub Date: March 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-179108-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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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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