A knowledgeable, all-encompassing dissection of this supreme example of “the consummate killing power of the machine age.”




A staggeringly comprehensive look at the significant battles of the River Somme during World War I.

Philpott (Military History/King’s Coll., London) brushes aside traditional mythmaking by Winston Churchill and Basil Liddell Hart for a fresh appraisal of this four-year “massacre of the innocents” in the northwest French countryside. Deemed a national tragedy for the British, the author calls it “a victory, if an unappreciated one.” Although the Battle of the Somme usually signified the massive Entente offensive of 1916, the engagement of the three big armies—France, Germany and Britain—actually occurred several times over four years, from September 1914 to August 1918, and ensued largely as a battle of attrition. After initial engagements between the French and the Germans in the summer of 1914 across the frontiers, the French dug in at the Somme. Napoleonic-style fighting—openly advancing formations—was abandoned in favor of trench warfare and hand-to-hand combat, and the “war of flesh was going to become a war of steel, of weaponry and machinery, science and technology” The British imperial army, led by Secretary of War Lord Kitchener and commander-in-chief Douglas Haig, was “something of a wild card” when it reached the Somme, and it was prodded into action by the erosion of the French reserves at Verdun. In contrast, the Kaiser’s army was at the top of its game, and only “a breakdown in German morale” could precipitate its defeat, which the French and British delivered in a coordinated strategy by 1916. Moreover, full mobilization at home was expanded, the war arsenal was replenished—the British employed tanks for the first time in battle, with mixed success—and a long, slow slog against the Germans prevailed. Philpott does a fine job of dovetailing comparative sources in this impressive account.

A knowledgeable, all-encompassing dissection of this supreme example of “the consummate killing power of the machine age.”

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-26585-2

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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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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