Though sometimes dry, a good choice for those who enjoy reading about life’s underdogs.

THE BLACK RUSSIAN

Beginning his account with a daring escape from 1919 Russia to Constantinople, Alexandrov (Slavic Languages and Literature/Yale Univ.; Limits to Interpretation: The Meanings of Anna Karenina, 2004, etc.) promises a wild life of intrigue, deception and beating the odds for his subject.

Immediately following Frederick Bruce Thomas’ arrival in Turkey as a refugee without a country, the author moves back to the 1870s to examine Thomas’ childhood as the son of freed slaves in Mississippi. Though his parents were successful farmers and businesspeople after the end of the Civil War, rampant racism made life difficult, and Thomas left shortly after his father’s death. He made his way to Chicago and New York and in both cities took jobs in what Alexandrov calls “the elegant service industry,” gaining experience in the hospitality trade. After leaving New York, he traveled through Europe, continuing to work in the industry until he finally made his way to Russia and settled there. He eventually built his own entertainment empire in Moscow, becoming a rich man in an environment mostly free of racial prejudice. However, his success was interrupted by the events that begin the book: the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and the subsequent pillaging of the wealthy. With Thomas’ life in danger in Russia and his family fragmented due to the war, the second half of the book focuses on his attempt to rebuild his life amid the political upheaval in Turkey. The obstacles to success were far greater in Constantinople, and this part of the book showcases the most difficult years of his life. Thomas’ story is certainly interesting, particularly since he was able to thrive in Europe in a way most African-American men of his generation couldn’t dream of. However, the author never recreates the prologue’s sense of urgency, and the narrative suffers from pacing issues throughout, with some parts reading like a novel and some like a history text.

Though sometimes dry, a good choice for those who enjoy reading about life’s underdogs.

Pub Date: March 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0802120694

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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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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ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN

Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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