Fans of Alan Furst and similar authors will find this true-espionage story fascinating.

AN IMPECCABLE SPY

RICHARD SORGE, STALIN’S MASTER AGENT

The life of a master secret agent who, unique among modern spies, infiltrated the highest echelons of both the German and Japanese governments during World War II.

Journalist and historian Matthews (Stalin’s Children: Three Generations of Love, War, and Survival, 2008) might be suspected of irony with his title, taken from an observation by the traitor Kim Philby, for though John le Carré considered Richard Sorge (1895-1944) “the spy to end spies,” he was sometimes dangerously undisciplined. He praised Stalin in a room full of Nazis, got drunk in a Tokyo bar and called Hitler “a fucking criminal,” and, while working in the German Embassy in Japan, loudly predicted that Germany would lose World War II. Born in the frontier town of Baku but raised in Germany, he served in the trenches on the Eastern Front, where he was converted to communism. Good with languages and charismatic, he became a spy for the Soviet Union, working in China and then Japan. His reports to his Soviet spymasters were not always believed, though they were accurate and full of dire warning. The spy ring that he put together in Tokyo had access to the highest levels of both Japanese and German intelligence. One key question centered on whether Japan would join with Germany to attack the Soviet Union; Japan concentrated its efforts on controlling Southeast Asia instead, as Sorge predicted, which allowed Stalin to free up thousands of tanks and planes and many divisions of troops to fight against the Germans. Eventually, Sorge slipped up and was imprisoned and executed. Matthews dismisses the long-held conspiracy theory that Sorge and the Soviets knew of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor before it happened. As he writes, although the Soviets benefited greatly from the work of Sorge, whom he calls “brave, brilliant, and relentless,” Sorge was in danger of being forgotten in the post-Stalin era until he was “rehabilitated” under Khrushchev and elevated to the “official pantheon of Soviet saints."

Fans of Alan Furst and similar authors will find this true-espionage story fascinating.

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4088-5778-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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