The moving correspondence of five young people whose idealism and dreams are reshaped and ultimately buried in the muddy trenches of WWI. The four friends of the title are poet and writer Vera Brittain’s younger brother, Edward; her fiancÇ, Roland Leighton; and their schoolmates Victor Richardson and Geoffrey Thurlow. The four men knew each other during their public-school days and planned, along with Vera, to continue their studies at Oxford following the summer of 1914. Instead, the four sought commissions in the British army and, one by one, crossed the channel to the battlefields of France and Italy. All four were killed. Vera, who had also left Oxford to serve as a nurse’s aide, kept up a steady correspondence with Leighton and her brother, and later with Richardson and Thurlow. Most of her letters were returned to her for safekeeping—and she, of course, also kept theirs. Bishop (English/McMasters Univ., Canada), who has edited Brittain’s diaries, and her biographer Bostridge have edited many of Vera’s letters heavily because the gist of them has already appeared frequently in her other writing. The correspondence begins almost immediately after Vera and Leighton, also a poet, are introduced by her brother. Their exchanges—light-hearted, and at first possessed of a youthfully showy intellectual bent—grow both in emotion and intimacy as the two fall in love. When Leighton heads for France, his letters return filled with war’s beauty and its soullessness: “Modern warfare is merely a trade, and it is only a matter of taste whether one is a soldier or a greengrocer. . . .” Following Leighton’s death, Vera writes more frequently to her brother and to the other two friends. Their responses are not as lyrical as Leighton’s, but their deaths are in some ways more disturbing, because they do herald a lost generation. Brittains of another time and place, here with their souls bared.

Pub Date: March 15, 1999

ISBN: 1-55553-379-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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