An entertaining narrative of events that have received more thorough treatment elsewhere.

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MARCH 1917

ON THE BRINK OF WAR AND REVOLUTION

In his debut, Washington Post assistant foreign editor Englund takes a close look at a month “that wrenched America toward a new course."

This was the month immediately before Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to take America into World War I. Wilson, the book's central figure, was initially determined to keep America neutral but was also relentlessly drawn to the conclusion that escalating German attacks on American shipping required the nation to join the hostilities. Early in the month, the first Russian revolution broke out and the hapless Czar Nicholas II abdicated, thus eliminating the embarrassing prospect of Americans fighting for democracy alongside an absolute despotism. Supporting players in the drama include Theodore Roosevelt, fulminating for a war he would not be permitted to join; Jeannette Rankin, the first American congresswoman, who wanted to focus on obtaining suffrage for women but first had to decide how to vote on going to war; H.L. Mencken, the Germanophile journalist who spent March in Cuba covering a farcical failed revolution; and James Reese Europe, a pioneering jazz and military band leader. Englund is an accomplished storyteller, and he well captures the spirit of the time: in Russia, where the exhilaration and confusion as the nation stumbled toward a humiliating separate peace with Germany and a second revolution; in America, full of anxiety and anticipation as the country slid reluctantly into war. The author also ably portrays the unfortunate misperceptions about emerging Russian democracy. Englund’s self-imposed time frame proves constraining, however. The events of March were, of course, the culmination of earlier developments that require and receive full explanation, particularly the resumption by Germany of unrestricted submarine warfare and the now-famous Zimmermann telegram. The coverage of Rankin's congressional debut effectively displays the distressing split that the prospect of war caused in the ranks of the suffragists, but the adventures of Mencken and James Europe seem of only tangential relevance.

An entertaining narrative of events that have received more thorough treatment elsewhere.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-393-29208-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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