Essential reading full of remarkable emotional wealth.



The Nobel laureate (2015) writes about “the wrong kind of war”: oral confessions from Russian women intimately involved with fighting for the motherland.

In her distinctive nonfiction style, a mix of her own reflections and transcribed, edited interviews with diverse Russians who have lived through decades of hardship, Alexievich (Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets, 2016, etc.) focuses on women who recounted to her amazing stories of their participation in World War II. Although first published in Russia in 1985, with an English-language version published in Moscow in 1988, this version features a sprightly new translation and a restoration—as the author notes in her introductory remarks—of material “the censors” threw out as being unheroic or unpatriotic. As Alexievich writes, war is traditionally known through male voices, yet Russian women, fired up by the urgency to push back the invading Germans, took up the military challenge and demonstrated enormous courage and ability. However, women were often silenced after the war, since assuming traditionally male military duties was seen as unwomanly—indeed, who would marry them? Alexievich writes movingly of how these extremely strong, now-elderly women had rarely been encouraged to tell their stories, but they eventually opened up under her gentle questioning and attention. Most often very young when recruited, the women reveal how they had to beg their male officers to allow them to get to the front line; once they mastered their tasks, the men were amazed at what they could do, and the Germans were horrified to learn that many of the snipers were women. Moreover, beyond their military prowess, of which they were very proud, the women offer touching, intimate details about their service—e.g., being assigned too-large boots and clothing, the shame of having to wear men’s underwear and managing their periods, finding love, and the ability to feel empathy for the starving German children after the war.

Essential reading full of remarkable emotional wealth.

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-58872-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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