PositiveThe Washington PostThe Bomber Mafia is an innovative audio book with music, sound effects and archival clips as well as a paperback. Gladwell’s easy conversational style works well in both formats, and his admiration for the Bomber Mafia shines through. His portraits of individuals are compelling ... Sometimes, however, his descriptions lack nuance ... Gladwell does not explore how racial attitudes influenced the bombing of Japan ... Gladwell does however confront us with difficult questions ... In so doing he has produced a thought-provoking, accessible account of how people respond to difficult choices in difficult times.
Lan Yan, Trans. by Sam Taylor
PositiveThe Washington PostYan’s reminiscences — translated in simple, fluid style from the original French, the short chapters prefaced by insightful, often beautiful phrases from various writers — are not sequential. She travels back and forth, interweaving affectionate pen portraits of grandparents, parents, and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins (the family tree is helpful) with the world of China’s privileged, educated elite to which they belonged ... ... This is not always a comfortable read, any more than in some places it can have been comfortable to write ... Some of the most arresting passages are about the warmth of family life: homely activities like pickling cabbages together or cooking dumplings. You can almost smell the fragrant steam, and what happens when the familiar, the commonplace, is stripped away and existence loses all logic with book burnings, head shavings, ransackings and meaningless cruelties ... It would be interesting to know what she thinks about China’s current treatment of groups like Muslim Uighurs, regarded as dissidents or potential dissidents and held in camps for \'reeducation.\' Yet, as she says, she wrote less to address the present than to remember the past and find closure ... for its personal insights and universal warnings about what humans are capable of, both good and bad, Yan’s readable and touching memoir of her family deserves to be told, and she tells it well.