A disturbing portrait of one segment of German society in a time of national crisis.

MY FATHER’S COUNTRY

THE STORY OF A GERMAN FAMILY

Journalist Bruhns explores the life of her father, a German officer executed in 1944 for his complicity in the plot to assassinate Hitler.

To understand how Hans Georg Klamroth could have joined and then become disenchanted with the Nazis, the author, who was six at the time of his execution, has studied family letters, diaries, photographs and old home movies. She likens the prosperous Klamroths to Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrook clan. Her research showed that HG, as he was known, served in the Prussian dragoons during World War I, worked abroad in Curaçao and Denmark in the family business and enjoyed an upper-class life of parties, women and horses in a militarist, nationalist milieu. At first HG viewed the rise of the Nazis with concern, but he joined the party in 1933. Bruhns reports with distaste that he did not object to the Klamroth clan’s written assertion of Aryan purity, nor did he protest book burnings or punitive anti-Semitic laws. In World War II he served first in Poland and then with German counterintelligence in Denmark. The author speculates that he aided the Danish resistance while there, and that when he served in Russia he became disillusioned about Hitler’s management of the war after the disastrous siege of Stalingrad. In 1943 he was back in Berlin, tasked with “preventive nondisclosure protection of military research projects,” in the dense prose of translator Whiteside. Bruhns is not certain who confided in her father about the plot to kill Hitler (she doubts it was his son-in-law, as claimed during the trial), but as a member of military intelligence, “saying nothing ha[d] become second nature”; he did not report the conspiracy. After the assassination attempt failed, he was arrested, swiftly tried and convicted, then hanged with deliberate slowness, so it took 20 minutes for him to be strangled to death.

A disturbing portrait of one segment of German society in a time of national crisis.

Pub Date: May 11, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-307-26281-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2008

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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