A dry, dreary waste of a grand subject, well below the author’s usual standard.

THE LADY IS A SPY

VIRGINIA HALL, WORLD WAR II HERO OF THE FRENCH RESISTANCE

The life and career of a tough, profane, cool-headed secret agent who worked for British and American intelligence in both hot and cold wars.

Mitchell’s (The Freedom Summer Murders, 2014, etc.) tedious tally of quick encounters, obscure locales, and vaguely described tasks sucks the juice out of what is plainly a rip-roaring tale. Not the least deterred by blowing off her own foot in a hunting accident (she dubbed her prosthetic limb “Cuthbert”), Maryland-born Hall played such an important role building networks of informants in Vichy France (“I’ve made some tart friends,” she reported, who “know a hell of a lot!”), supplying arms and advice to insurgents, and helping prisoners escape that she was both made a member of the Order of the British Empire and awarded a Distinguished Service Cross by the U.S.—the latter being the only one given to a civilian woman in World War II. Here, though the author does direct nods to many of her intrepid associates, he buries her own exploits in generalities and extraneous minor details plus, for her later years in the CIA, eye-blearing boilerplate from internal personnel reviews. The backmatter offers plenty of documentation, but the small period photos throughout are too often only tangentially relevant to the narrative.

A dry, dreary waste of a grand subject, well below the author’s usual standard. (bibliography, endnotes, index, maps) (Biography. 12-15)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-545-93612-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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An engaging, admiring, and insightful portrait of an uncompromising, civic-minded, visionary artist.

MAYA LIN

THINKING WITH HER HANDS

One of the world’s most celebrated creators of civic architecture is profiled in this accessible, engaging biography.

Similar in style and format to her Everybody Paints!: The Lives and Art of the Wyeth Family (2014) and Wideness and Wonder: The Life and Art of Georgia O’Keeffe (2011), Rubin’s well-researched profile examines the career, creative processes, and career milestones of Maya Lin. Rubin discusses at length Lin’s most famous achievement, designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Chinese-American Lin was a reserved college student who entered and won the competition to design and build the memorial. Her youth and ethnicity were subjects of great controversy, and Rubin discusses how Lin fought to ensure her vision of the memorial remained intact. Other notable works by Lin, including the Civil Rights Memorial for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, a library and chapel for the Children’s Defense Fund, the Museum of Chinese in America, and the outdoor Wave Field project are examined but not in as much depth as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Attractively designed, the book is illustrated extensively with color photos and drawings.

An engaging, admiring, and insightful portrait of an uncompromising, civic-minded, visionary artist. (bibliography, source notes, index) (Biography. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4521-0837-7

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Lyrical writing focuses on the aftermath of the Holocaust, a vital, underaddressed aspect of survivor stories.

BOY FROM BUCHENWALD

THE TRUE STORY OF A HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR

Following his liberation from the Buchenwald death camp, Romek didn’t know how to reclaim his humanity.

Romek’s childhood in his Polish shtetl of Skarżysko-Kamienna, where he was the youngest of six loving siblings, wasn’t wealthy, but it was idyllic. Skarżysko-Kamienna was “forests and birdsong,” with “the night sky stretching from one end of the horizon to the other.” His family was destroyed and their way of life obliterated with the Nazi invasion of Poland, and Romek lost not just memories, but the accompanying love. Unlike many Holocaust memoirs, this painfully lovely story begins in earnest after the liberation, when Romek was among 1,000 Jewish orphans, the Buchenwald Boys, in need of rehabilitation. Having suffered years of starvation, disease, and being treated as animals, the boys were nearly feral: They fought constantly, had forgotten how to use forks, and set fire to their French relief camp dormitory. Some adults thought they were irredeemable. With endless patience, care, and love, the mentors and social workers around them—themselves traumatized Holocaust survivors—brought Romek back from the brink. Even in a loving and protective environment, in a France where the boys were treated overwhelmingly kindly by the populace, it took time to remember goodness. Parallels between anti-Semitism and racism in the U.S. and Canada are gentle but explicit.

Lyrical writing focuses on the aftermath of the Holocaust, a vital, underaddressed aspect of survivor stories. (historical note, timeline) (Memoir. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0600-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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