THE FINAL DAYS

The calculated unveiling of the new Woodward and Bernstein bombshell—headlines in the daily press, excerpts in Newsweek—has maximized its exposure at the expense of the drama, even the limited "truth" of the book. Anyone who's been awake knows the worst: Kissinger's contempt for "our meatball President" and his siege with a kneeling, sobbing Nixon the night before resignation; Mrs. Nixon's estrangement (separate beds since '62) and the son-in-laws' fears of insanity or suicide; the wire-pulling of Alexander Haig, the waffling of James St. Clair, the bullishness of Ronald Ziegler. Here, however, the infinite indiscretions emerge in the course of events from the April 30, 1973 departure of Haldeman and Ehrlichman to the August 9, 1974 take-off of Nixon himself. For months all hands fight to keep Nixon in office and control the tapes. On July 24, '74 the Supreme Court rules for special prosecutor Jaworski, and Fred Buzhardt, listening at last, finds "the smoking pistol"—the Nixon-Haldeman confab on June 23, 1973, six days after Watergate—which, he and other aides demonstrate, Nixon listened to in May. In the two weeks following Nixon is nudged toward resignation—balks, wavers—and by the time the cat is bagged you wonder not that he eventually fell apart (to whatever extent he actually did) but that he held up so long. Which leaves one doubtful of how much of this dramatic narrtive—composed of direct quotes and desk-side detail—to credit, since none of it is substantiated in any assessable way. And given the putatively "complete" story, what is one to make of what's not there—any clear indication of whether or not Ford promised Nixon a pardon, the one disclosure that would have been in the public interest?

Pub Date: May 3, 1976

ISBN: 0743274067

Page Count: 502

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1976

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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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

1776

A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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