Marvel is both credited with and accused of writing revisionist history, and this final volume is in keeping with its...

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TARNISHED VICTORY

FINISHING LINCOLN'S WAR

Acclaimed historian Marvel (The Great Task Remaining: The Third Year of Lincoln’s War, 2010, etc.) delivers the final volume of his finely written, minutely researched four-part history of the Civil War.

The author’s subject is the final year of the war, thus building on his prior three volumes, which assess and often challenge the generally accepted portrait of America’s most divisive conflict. Marvel begins in the spring of 1864, with a nation so bogged down in a bloody, mismanaged war that many legitimately despaired of its end. Readers’ knowledge that the conflict would be resolved in a bloody burst of energy nearly 12 months later causes this inauspicious start of the 1864 campaign to be all the more remarkable. The author has the historian’s gift of assimilating facts and extrapolating stories. Compelling narratives emerge from the study of Northern draft protocols, the appalling conditions of the Confederate Andersonville POW camp and its Union counterparts and the creaking machinery of a war department so burdened by bureaucracy that its soldiers and their dependents were left waiting months—even years—for their back pay. Marvel culls evidence from a wide variety of sources, from the lowliest private’s letters to his sweetheart to Gen. Grant’s communiqués with Lincoln. It is this breadth of perspectives, both personal and contextual, that differentiates this chronicle from the many dry recitations of battles and their attendant losses that characterize a particular genre of Civil War history.

Marvel is both credited with and accused of writing revisionist history, and this final volume is in keeping with its predecessors in both tone and direction. It aptly concludes the author’s extensive effort to elucidate the errors of those powerful men who began the Civil War and quickly found themselves trapped by their own creation, forced to see it through to a merciless end.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-42806-2

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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