THE SECOND WORLD WAR, VOLUME 1

THE GATHERING STORM

A tremendous book of which the digests made for Life and the necessarily cut excerpts in the New York Times gave no conception. For Winston Churchill shows himself as historian, biographer, dramatist, journalist; important as is the substance of what he records of the years leading up to war, more important for the reader is the color and vigor and originality and fearlessness of his manner of recording. Churchill, the man, comes through- as he does in his broadcasting — as he does on the platform- as he does in his printed speeches — but as he failed to do (for this reader at least) in the slashed copy which ran serially. He makes the years of so-called peace pregnant with meaning (and with frightening parallels today). He shows with almost rhythmic precision the points at which World War II might have been prevented. He proves that democracy unless welded into larger organizations lacks security. He brings constant evidence to indicate the dangers in the counsels of prudence. Britain and France consistently lost ground while Germany rearmed. British "fatuity and fecklessness" made the Manchurian incident, Abyssinia, the occupation of the Rhineland, the results of the Saar plebescite, the betrayal at Munich possible. And yet Churchill avoids direct attack on Chamberlain, simply saying that the fundamental bases of the differences lay between "sweet reasonableness and the mailed fist". By the time Britain was awake to inevitability of war, Germany was in her fourth year of preparation, Britain her first. It was a sad tale of wrong judgments by well-meaning people. Further errors of judgment are indicated in the disdaining of the Russian offer of collaboration, in turning aside Roosevelt's desire for an intergovernmental conference — until it was too late, and the march of time brought the fall of Austria, Poland, Norway, Holland, Belgium. During the "twilight war" period, after Poland, Churchill again played a part, and records his service as Lord of the Admiralty, his plans- stymied by delay until too late. Vivid pen portraits throughout add immeasurably to the whole.

Pub Date: June 21, 1948

ISBN: 039541055X

Page Count: 756

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1948

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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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