An appealing introduction, aimed at a wide audience, to events that continue to shape global affairs.

1946

THE MAKING OF THE MODERN WORLD

Newsweek associate editor Sebestyen (Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire, 2009, etc.) unravels the cataclysmic changes brought about by the end of World War II.

The author, a foreign correspondent whose family fled Communist Hungary, describes 1946 as “the year that laid the foundation of the modern world.” In the aftermath of the war, “vast populations had been forced to uproot in the biggest refugee crisis the world had ever seen. Hitler had dreamed of an ethnically pure Europe. Paradoxically, Germany’s defeat ensured that by the end of 1946 his dream was, to a great extent, a reality.” Coupled with the devastation in Europe, the postwar period witnessed the birth of Israel, the dissolution of the Indian subcontinent, the rises of America and the Soviet Union, the final stages of the civil war in China, and the democratic transition in Japan. Sebestyen is a witty storyteller with a wide-ranging intellect, and his fast-paced yet expansive style will appeal even to readers with little taste for history. Though very much a big-picture narrative, the book is liberally peppered with fascinating asides and anecdotes that humanize its subjects. Emperor Hirohito’s declaration that he was a human rather than a god was instrumental in moving the Japanese populace into the modern era, but less well known is the fact that it was “drafted by a mid-level officer of the American Occupation authority.” Iconoclastic at times, the author is not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom or topple sacred cows. Churchill, for instance, “was not entirely an innocent bystander, or even only a bit-part player [in the Yalta Accords]. He helped to build the Iron Curtain from Stettin to Trieste.” Ultimately, the lesson is that the vicissitudes of fate are unpredictable, and even the best-laid plans are quickly overtaken by reality.

An appealing introduction, aimed at a wide audience, to events that continue to shape global affairs.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-87042-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 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...

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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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