A fine narrative that will be of much interest to students of military history.




A somber portrait of early modern war in one of its most hellish manifestations.

Best known for the novel Forrest Gump (1986), Groom is also a seasoned writer on historical subjects (Shrouds of Glory, 1995, etc.). The present study brings us little that other histories do not—Stanley Weintraub’s recent Silent Night, for instance, focuses on the famed Christmas truce of 1914, while John Keegan’s The First World War gives extensive coverage on the Ypres Salient—but it relates the terrible events of four years with fluency and sometimes unpleasant vividness. From Groom we learn that a single 1917 battle along the Belgian front “enriched the Flanders earth with the corpses of some 228,000 Englishmen and Germans, not to mention about 20,000 French, all in an area not much longer than Manhattan Island.” He adds that we still do not have an accurate number of total deaths in the Ypres area, and that statisticians can only posit the true, and staggering, extent of the bloodshed. All those corpses over four years lent the trenches on both sides an infernal aspect, which Groom evokes with well-chosen quotes from the combatants: a Canadian soldier relates that the “whole salient had an odor beyond description,” which does not stop Groom from doing his best to describe the smells, sights, and sounds of a battle that seemed to go on forever. (Another Canadian soldier, John Macrae, wrote the poem “In Flanders Fields,” the Ypres front’s best-known literary monument.) Groom’s account, full of detail and the smell of gunsmoke, is expertly paced and free of dull stretches, unlike more technical studies of the Ypres Salient: he knows just when enough is enough, when it’s time to pull his lens from close-ups of hand-to-hand fighting and exploding Germans up to the big picture of Ypres in the overall context of WWI.

A fine narrative that will be of much interest to students of military history.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-87113-842-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2002

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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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