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Not Groom at his best but certainly serviceable for readers without much background in the history of the era.

Novelist and historian Groom (El Paso, 2016, etc.) recounts the origins and fortunes of the grand alliance forged to battle the Axis powers in World War II.

In the early 1930s, it would have seemed unlikely for the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and the United States to agree on anything. As the author observes, when incoming President Franklin Roosevelt recognized the Soviet Union as a legitimate government, he did so “against the wishes of a large part of the country, including his own mother.” Winston Churchill was implacably opposed to any such recognition and held Josef Stalin in scorn, detesting everything about Bolshevism—yet still came together with Roosevelt to join forces with Stalin against Hitler in the west, eventually opening a two-front war. Getting to that point required plenty of maneuvering, and the powers developed considerable skills in hiding things from one another as each jockeyed for position to be first among equals. Groom’s account of how Churchill, he of “devious mind,” convinced Roosevelt to sign on to the invasion of North Africa is excellent. For all that, there’s not much new in this history, and certainly nothing that readers well-versed in WWII history won’t know. Yet that doesn’t seem to be the audience here, for Groom writes as if his readers had never heard of Churchill, or FDR, or Uncle Joe. That notwithstanding, his accounts of the Tehran Conference of 1943 and the later Yalta Conference are tasty pieces of drama in which Stalin played a too-believing Roosevelt while planning a postwar Soviet empire, or at least a system of satellite states. At the latter gathering, he notes, “Roosevelt made the stunning declaration that he did not intend for American troops to remain in Europe more than two years after the war, and Stalin, apparently emboldened by the news, lied or prevaricated about his intentions in Eastern Europe.”

Not Groom at his best but certainly serviceable for readers without much background in the history of the era.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4262-1966-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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