MixedThe Wall Street JournalValuable but uneven ... Moorhouse’s subject thus encompasses a double mystery: how the operation worked and succeeded, and why it seems to have disappeared from the historical record. The author does better explaining the former than the latter ... As important as Mr. Moorhouse’s story is, his writing can be so clotted and his attention to detail so minute that the timeline of the larger story begins to blur. Yet he has relatively little to say about the role played by postwar communism and Cold War politics in the rescue mission’s decadeslong disappearance into obscurity. And he reveals almost nothing about how the rescue operation came to light again ... Incomplete.
Drew Gilpin Faust
RaveThe Wall Street JournalExquisitely reasoned and elegantly written ... Faust’s memoir bears witness to an era whose divisions still reverberate today ... Throughout her memoir she grounds such incidents in the timeline of history, illustrating her argument that the historical times we are born are as formative as our personal past.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalLost Bread has been labeled by Ms. Bruck’s publisher as a novel. But the book’s story tracks so closely to the details of its author’s life that it would be more accurately classified as an autobiographical novel infused with occasional flights of fancy, sudden jumps in narrative viewpoint, and almost hallucinatory descriptions of the horrors witnessed in the concentration camps ... In whatever language you encounter Ms. Bruck’s work, her spare prose captures the raw terror and bitter sorrow of the camps. She also finds lyrical beauty and unexpected joy in moments of calm. Reading her work is like breaking bread with her, seeking light amid the shadows cast by history.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalIn one brief essay-like chapter after another, the author recounts her own adventures in art, weaving together vignettes and memories of her father, anecdotes about her career as an art critic, and observations and analyses of the lives and works of 17th-century Dutch artists ... Wondrous ... Its thunderclap still echoes in my ears.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalHer propulsive, high-stress journey is filled with dread and fear, underpinned by her hard-won compassion for the profound pain her long-ago self believed she had no choice but to disown ... She doggedly sifts through official documents, media accounts, government and corporate archives, and various other sources ... Her written record turns out to be almost as spotty and elusive as her memory. Ms. Hodes turns to her research to fill in the gaps ... In reclaiming her personal history, Ms. Hodes has provided a lesson for us all in the power of memory both to conceal and heal.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalResolutely unflinching and ultimately illuminating ... Mr. Bilger makes palpable the tension he feels between the wish to forget the past, in all its discomforting details, and the desire to understand behavior that might be easier to erase from memory than to confront and try to take in, much less forgive.
PositiveThe Washington PostSpare, lyrical ... Moore’s title captures not only Sarah’s anguish but also that of all the lost wives and lost souls whose illusions had carried them to a vaunted frontier whose promise had become saturated in blood. In replacing long-held legends with traumas, Moore’s steely vision of the American West recognizes few, if any, heroes. The result is a repudiation — solemn yet stirring — of the idealized fable of the American West.
RaveThe Washington PostPiercingly tender ... Ann Napolitano catalogues the multitudes of love and hurt that families contain, and lays bare their powers to both damage and heal. If that description echoes the poetry of Walt Whitman, whose work Napolitano quotes in her epigraph, it also reflects her own expansive literary spirit — a bracing yet restorative sensibility that managed to render cathartic...seemingly unbearable pain .. Hello Beautiful will make you weep buckets because you come to care so deeply about the characters and their fates ... Aching precision ... Napolitano’s voice is her own. Like her deeply felt characters, she compels us to contemplate the complex tapestry of family love that can, despite grief and loss, still knit us together. She helps us see ourselves — and each other — whole.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalSo much sleaze oozes out of the morally compromised subjects in Ian Buruma’s disquieting group portrait... that nearly every page leaves a stain of betrayal ... The sheer flamboyance of Mr. Buruma’s shape-shifters commands our attention.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalAbsorbing ... Her scientific achievements—which Ms. Zernike presents in straightforward language that nonscientists can easily understand—were more than impressive.
Robert D. Richardson
RaveThe Washington Post[An] extraordinarily cogent and exquisitely concise exploration of the life-affecting course of early grief ... It is not a self-help book, but Richardson provides comfort and consolation simply by pointing out that even the most eminent figures in our cultural history were not immune to the stabbing ache of grief ... His portrayal of their journeys from raw vulnerability to the reawakening to life’s possibilities invites us inside their souls, and speaks to our own.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalRaw and gripping ... Mr. Freedland’s compelling portrait of this neglected hero of Holocaust resistance leaves an inescapable imprint of a past now in danger of being minimized or forgotten.
RaveThe Washington PostYou don’t have to be a film buff to love acclaimed British author Jonathan Coe’s at once melancholic and laugh-out-loud funny novel Mr. Wilder and Me. But don’t be surprised if reading it inspires you to binge-watch Hollywood movie classics written and directed by cinema great Billy Wilder (1906-2002) ... The \'me\' of the title is first-person narrator Calista Frangopoulou, whose fictional life story Coe nimbly intertwines with Wilder’s real-life history. Theirs is not a romantic love story, but something more tender and rare: a charming, ironic fairy tale about an accidental, intergenerational friendship that, even as it changes the entire trajectory of young Calista’s future will also help the aging Wilder accept his own limitations ... [a] gem of a novel.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... absorbing ... an insight-filled group portrait of the founder of psychoanalysis and his followers. It is also a psychobiographical thriller about the limits of genius ... Was Freud’s political blindness, as Mr. Nagorski calls it, also a form of personal blindness, symptomatic of the same neurotic patterns he is famous for identifying: ambivalence, denial, narcissism? Or perhaps we’re the ones harboring irrational assumptions: Why should being a genius in the science of the mind guarantee expertise in the unrelated discipline of political science?
RaveThe Wall Street JournalLi recounts this real-life saga of rupture and reunion in propulsive, poignant detail. The book’s gripping narrative reveals the devastating human cost of the Chinese Revolution and will resonate, in particular, with anyone whose family has been severed by political events ... The author’s perspective, from having lived both inside and outside the People’s Republic of China, yields exceptional insight into her aunts’ personal histories and the constantly shifting political vicissitudes they endured. She unspools the unexpected, accidental swerves each life took with spellbinding grace. Here, in the pages of her book, she has knit together the family story as it was lived in both Chinas.
Javier Sinay tr. Robert Croll
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... as fascinating as it is quirky ... Mr. Sinay’s frequent jumping between eras can be confusing, and I wish the translator, Robert Croll, had included brief definitions of the numerous Spanish and Argentine phrases that are sprinkled throughout the book. But the author holds our interest as he perseveres ... Inexplicably, Mr. Sinay doesn’t situate this horror within the broader history of anti-Semitism in Argentina, including the country’s role in harboring former Nazis, the most infamous being Adolf Eichmann.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalAlthough the book itself is relatively brief, the grisly subject and the density of its argument necessitate periodic breaks for air. Yet Mr. Longerich’s in-depth deconstruction yields unparalleled insight into the Nazi regime’s blood-soaked goals ... Mr. Longerich traces with clarity and precision Nazism’s monstrous progression from anti-Jewish ideology to the policy of mass murder that resulted in the annihilation of six million Jews ... indispensable.
Karen Joy Fowler
RaveThe Washington Post... exquisite ... Yes, we know even before we turn the first page where the intertwined timelines of the Booths and American history will lead, but Fowler’s deftly imagined family portrait keeps us riveted. Her exploration of the pathways by which a seemingly private family melodrama can bleed into public savagery illuminates not just a single household’s, but an entire country’s toxic dysfunction. That we are still grappling with the Civil War era’s legacy lends Fowler’s chronicle an inescapable contemporary resonance and underlines anew Shakespeare’s timeless observation that what is past is prologue and that we forget it at our peril ... The strategy may seem counterintuitive — would we be reading this book if not for John? — but it works brilliantly. The siblings’ varied ages, temperaments and angles of vision collide and overlap like a kaleidoscope, reflecting ever-changing internal family alliances and recurring quarrels ... Fowler has based her telling of this tale on solid historical research. She also intersperses her narrative with excerpts from Lincoln’s speeches and other historical commentaries on the intensifying conflict between North and South. But there will be no exit from the Booth family drama, or the theater of the Civil War, until we arrive at Washington, D.C.’s Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865. The actors have long left the stage, Fowler notes, but the ghosts remain, still haunting us today.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... lingering tastes and luscious aromas...permeate Meriel Schindler’s affecting The Lost Café Schindler ... The endless maneuvering between Kurt’s family and the authorities of each successive government can be tedious to wade through until you realize, as Ms. Schindler does, the dispiriting and enraging impact they must have had on Kurt [Schindler] as he doggedly pursued his claims through the decades ... it is still difficult to keep all the complicated connections straight, and the details of one intertwined story can blur into another. She also can’t refrain from following up on various historical sidebars, some of which are less interesting than others. Yet through her research she clearly documents the simmering presence of anti-Semitism in the Tyrol throughout the decades that preceded Hitler’s rise. Those tropes are unsettlingly visible in the vicious political cartoons and pamphlets, some of which are reproduced here ... Ms. Schindler’s insight-filled reckoning with the past can’t help but leave behind a bitter taste that no amount of Sacher torte can disguise.
PositiveThe Washington PostHis compelling exploration of its impact on the community is by turns searing and compassionate. It is an emotionally draining terrain, flecked with occasional, unexpected pockets of consolation. But in placing this hate crime against our country’s patchwork canvas of faith, politics and violence, Oppenheimer provides a powerful meditation on the changing meaning of community and belonging in an age of disconnection and isolation ... Nonetheless...I wanted Oppenheimer to dig deeper into the psychological impact and the enduring ache that trauma leaves behind ... his familiarity [with Squirrel Hill] lends his empathic interviews depth and nuance ... he is consistently attuned to the pulse of the reeling community as it struggles to regain some sense of balance.
RaveWashington PostGary Shteyngart never strays far from the absurd ... In his latest novel, Our Country Friends, Shteyngart convincingly demonstrates that large doses of caustic irony mixed with poignancy and melancholy may be the most effective tonic for coping with the lunatic mood swings so many of us have experienced since the virus first appeared ... Shteyngart wields his satiric bite to good effect ... Shteyngart deftly pivots from this hilarious, tragicomic parody to a mood closer to the wistful, elegiac tones of his beloved Russian master, Chekhov. Astute readers will also realize that in keeping with Chekhov’s principle that a gun placed on the stage must go off before the curtain falls, the coronavirus, too, will inevitably find a target ... By novel’s end, Shteyngart’s flawed characters have absorbed lessons in humility, compassion and grief. And even though Shteyngart leaves too many loose ends curiously unexplained, his darkly brilliant comedy of love and folly gives us the absurd leavening we need to keep on laughing, and living, in covid’s all too tragic wake.
RaveThe Washington Post... gripping, meticulously researched ... The bracing revelation of Brookwood’s book is that these essential lessons in countering the effects of neglect and disadvantage came frighteningly close to disappearing without a trace. Discovering that past helps us recognize just how far we still have to go to provide opportunities to help all young minds realize the promise they possess.
PositiveThe Washington Post... a divertingly chatty yet thought-provoking exploration of how the family stories we don’t know can define us just as much as the ones we think we do ... At times, Klam can ramble and become repetitive, but her lively wit carries us along. With genealogical quests all the rage, Klam’s book serves as a droll guide for other ancestry seekers. It’s also a cautionary tale about the obsessional nature of such a search and the bracing truths that may lie buried beneath the family lore.
PositiveWall Street Journal[A] penetrating chronicle ... Mr. English traces [Hitler\'s] trajectory in fascinating, grueling detail ... At times, Mr. English can be repetitive, but he deftly links art history, psychiatry and Hitler’s ideology to devastating effect. Because seeing art through Hitler’s eyes, as Mr. English compels us to do, is nothing less than soul-crushing, I often needed to pause for air.
RaveThe Washington PostTeichner’s main themes are sure to warm readers ... Adding to the book’s allure is the nostalgia of its pre-pandemic setting, the story unfolding in a Manhattan still bustling at full speed ... Teichner brings an enjoyably light (though sometimes too cutesy) touch ... From Carol and Harry, Teichner has learned that we all have the capacity to create and build new friendships and attachments at any age or stage of life. That such rewards are possible is the inspirational lesson for all the characters in — and readers of — this touching saga.
RaveThe Washington PostAbout to turn 93 years old, she is as vibrant on the page as ever. In Antiquities, the latest of her many books, Ozick employs her virtuosic literary style to weave an enigmatic tale about the ephemeral nature of memory and the transience of life ... vintage Cynthia Ozick. But whether you’re new to her work or a longtime fan, you’ll find plenty to entertain as well as to astonish ... Ozick simultaneously builds suspense and provides comic relief by having the absent-minded Petrie repeatedly begin to spill the beans, then suddenly meander away to another topic ... Indisputable is Ozick’s exquisite artistry in rendering yet another resonant and unsettling tale.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... in her well-researched and riveting chronicle The Light of Days, Judy Batalion brings these unsung heroines to the forefront ... This group portrait forcefully counters the myth of Jewish passivity, at once documenting the breadth and extent of Jewish activism throughout the ghettos and underlining in particular the crucial roles women played in the fight to survive. Indeed, several of the women whose stories Ms. Batalion tells also helped lead the most significant act of anti-Nazi Jewish resistance, the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising, which is recounted here in brutal detail ... Ms. Batalion’s book is both comprehensive and important, but reading it can prove frustrating and confusing, especially as the author toggles back and forth in time and from one woman’s story to another. And although Ms. Batalion does not flinch from describing the wanton acts of Nazi-inflicted cruelty and torture these women witnessed and endured, readers may need to pause for air. Yet spelling out the specifics of these horrors underscores the monumental strength and resolve these extraordinary women possessed. The Light of Days pays tribute to their individual grit and their collective will to keep the Jewish people alive.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... [Tannen] displays an acute ability to decode and explain the hidden messages and assumptions our words unwittingly convey, whether about power, status, a wish for greater connection or its opposite ... appealing ... overly discursive early chapters ... I wish Ms. Tannen—and her book—had arrived at this knowledge in fewer pages, but the ultimate recognition of her father’s painful need for connection is searing, the depiction of the Jewish community in World War I-era Warsaw riveting. Not only does Ms. Tannen’s heartfelt portrait keep her father—and his memories—alive, but her story also hints at the undiscovered currents that may await us, too, if we but delve beneath the surface of our own family myths.
RaveThe Wall Street Journal... [a] riveting exploration of Germany’s post-World War II reckoning with guilt and responsibility ... Ms. Schwarz makes a strong case that without the support of Nazis like her paternal grandparents, \'Germany could not have descended so far into chaos and crime.\' She is equally persuasive in her thesis that it is only through the hard work of remembering the past, with equal parts historical accuracy and personal courage, that we can begin to heal from the hurt and residual distrust we lean on to rationalize prejudice and hatred of others. With eloquence and passion she demonstrates that we can never be reminded too often to never forget.
PositiveThe Washington Post...[an] absorbing and edifying corrective ... Saltman tells two separate stories here: One is her personal journey as a mother, the other the story of the science of attachment. But the narratives are also deeply intertwined. How could it be otherwise when her drive to understand attachment is fueled by her desire to settle her doubts about her maternal instincts and capabilities? ... All these worries carry echoes of the ingrained but unreachable, perfectionistic standards of motherhood so many of us carry. But Saltman’s refrain of self-reproach can grow tedious, as can her tendency to invoke Zen philosophy ... By contrast, her research enlivens her ... Saltman is at her best in her chapters on Ainsworth and the development of attachment theory. Yet she can go overboard in her identification with Ainsworth, venerating her as an idealized mentor and mother figure ... Fortunately, for the most part Saltman remains securely attached to her material and to the science itself. Of that, Ainsworth would have surely approved.
PositiveThe Washington PostFans of the medical-mystery television series House will find arresting parallels—and striking differences—in the absorbing collection of real-life psychiatric case histories the distinguished British neuropsychiatrist Anthony David recounts ... the compassionate, philosophical Dr. David can’t help second-guessing himself, and that’s only one reason his case histories are so compelling ... I wish he had provided more details about the state of our still-unfolding knowledge of the neurological and other channels through which mind and body communicate with each other. That may be for another book, however. In the meantime, he has given us a gripping overview of the dilemmas that the traditional binary medical mind-set has yet to fully explore or grasp.
RaveThe Wall Street Journal... [a] taut, eloquent memoir of wartime survival ... Reflecting on how little is known about Frenkel’s life beyond the confines of this, apparently her only book, Mr. Modiano likens reading it to the experience of becoming privy to an intimate confession from a stranger met by chance, someone whose secrets you now share but whose identity remains essentially anonymous. This enigmatic quality combines with the story’s own underlying sense of urgency to propel the reader forward. Composed in the immediate aftermath of her arrival in Switzerland, Frenkel’s suspense-filled saga spills out with absolute clarity as she details her flight’s every hazardous step and misguided stop ... Frenkel artfully sketches a range of characters she encountered along the way ... We can only remain grateful to the constellation of luck and chance that allowed, first, Frenkel’s survival, and now, the recovery of her exceptional book.
Tom Segev trans. by Haim Watzman
PositiveThe Washington PostDeploying exhaustive research, which included access to previously unavailable archival material, Segev unearths a man of contradictions ... Segev is unafraid to point out Ben-Gurion’s flaws and failings ... Segev’s hefty, detailed volume may leave both critics and admirers unhappy. But what Segev’s deft unfolding of the trajectory of Ben-Gurion’s life makes clear is that his legacy is Israel itself.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal\"Mr. Dobbs affectingly braids three separate narratives into one ... devastating ... Mr. Dobbs... chronicles in meticulous, suspenseful detail the desperate perseverance of one Kippenheim family after another to find an escape from Nazi Europe. These stories—recovered and reconstructed through letters, memoirs, family photographs, visa documents and oral histories—make up the book’s most wrenching sections.\
Carla Guelfenbein, Trans. by John Cullen
PositiveThe New York Jewish WeekMystery and obsession combine to make Chilean author Carla Guelfenbein’s novel...an atmospheric page-turner ... Guelfenbein adeptly captures the meditative mood of each of her narrators, and successfully conjures Sigall’s linguistic delight in patterning words into poems. One only wishes the author had edited some of the more long-winded passages and made the wandering plot more concise.
Susan Rubin Suleiman
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal...[a] measured, compelling new book ... Rather than bluntly judge, Ms. Suleiman makes us see Némirovsky as a gifted woman situated in a particular historical epoch, carefully analyzing her writings as a product of those times, and clarifying, without excusing, Némirovsky’s most discomforting passages ... There is no denying that Némirovsky closed her eyes to the hateful articles that ran alongside her stories in Nazi-leaning publications. At the same time, Ms. Suleiman points out, as a writer desperate to support her family, as time went on these were the only outlets available that still allowed her, going against rules banning Jewish authors, to nonetheless write for them under a pseudonym.