PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewFast-paced, highly entertaining ... Olson’s narrative gathers steam in the tense days before the Nazis invaded Poland ... The highlight of Olson’s book is her thrilling account of the rescue of the giant statues of Rameses II and the Abu Simbel temples from inundation by the Aswan High Dam ... Meticulous detail ... Empress of the Nile\'s momentum falters after the Abu Simbel rescue ... Some later chapters take on an episodic feeling without adding much insight to Desroches-Noblecourt’s formidable personality.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review... engrossing ... Dolnick here conjures up another intricate intellectual caper. With its thrilling dissection of the decoding process, it calls to mind Margalit Fox’s The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code (2013), about three scholars who deciphered Linear B, the 3,400-year-old script excavated from the ruins of Crete’s Minoan civilization. Like Fox, Dolnick exuberantly captures the frustrations and triumphs of scholars as they puzzle out the meaning of long-dead runes, \'seduced by tantalizing clues and then careening into dead ends and losing hope, but then spotting new markers and dashing off jubilantly once more\' ... Dolnick’s stirring account makes it clear that both decoders deserve scholarly immortality.
RaveNew York Review of Books... [a] revelatory, riveting, and deeply moving account of his family’s involvement in Germany’s recent history ... The Merck story, however, is only a sideshow to Wolff’s central narrative in Endpapers , which focuses on the dramatically divergent paths taken by his paternal grandfather and father during the Nazi years. Elisabeth Merck’s first husband, the author’s grandfather Kurt Wolff, became the country’s most illustrious publisher during the Weimar era ... Wolff cast his eye on both contemporary Germany and his family’s turbulent road through the twentieth century, from the vantage point of a city that stands on the fault lines of Germany’s recent past ... For six years Kurt and Helen lived in a comfortable limbo in France (where their son, Christian, was born) and Italy. All that changed suddenly, however, when the Nazis invaded Poland. Declared enemy aliens, the couple was interned in a camp in southern France, and when the Nazis broke through the Maginot Line in June 1940, they became fugitives under the Vichy puppet regime. Wolff has pieced together this period in remarkable detail, capturing the fear, desperation, and helplessness of a literary titan who found himself reduced to a victim, dependent on the goodwill of a few heroic people ... The question of German guilt, both individual and collective, continues to haunt Alexander Wolff as he dives deeper into his family history. Some of the strongest passages of Endpapers capture the emotional arguments between Kurt and his daughter Maria, Niko’s sister.
MixedThe New York Times Book Review... fragments of autobiography mix with impressionistic snapshots and deeper observations that peel away our anthropomorphic preconceptions and reveal the intelligence and mystery of birds and other creatures ... Macdonald’s writing here, as in H Is for Hawk, can be hard going. It sometimes bogs down beneath the weight of its adjectives...Still, her evocative sense of place and her meticulous observations burst through the purple prose.
PositiveThe New York Review of Books... [a] thrilling though sometimes episodic and repetitive account of the extraordinary athletes, daredevils, visionaries, and fools who joined in the competition to scale the world’s highest peaks between the 1930s and the mid-1950s ... Many of these journeys—an overwhelming accumulation of names, places, and physical and mental trials in high-altitude hell—blur together in Ellsworth’s telling. But his evocations of the era, when simply journeying to staging areas through unstable corners of Asia could be a perilous adventure, are superb ... Ellsworth captures the sinister atmosphere of 1930s Munich, the heartland of both the Nazi Party and the burgeoning mountaineering industry ... The last section of Ellsworth’s book grippingly recreates the conquest of Everest in May 1953 by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. This story has been told many times before, including in Hillary’s own memoir, but Ellsworth provides new background and a reminder that their achievement was the culmination of decades of laborious progress and geopolitical twists and turns.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewLindsey Hilsum’s In Extremis: The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin is an extraordinary account of one reporter’s fearless and ultimately fatal dedication ... Piecing together Colvin’s exuberantly messy life through more than a hundred interviews with ex-husbands, former lovers, family members, friends and colleagues, Hilsum draws an empathetic portrait of a woman whose courage often crossed into recklessness, both in combat zones and outside them ... Hilsum unpacks one terrifying story after another to illustrate how far Colvin was willing to go to expose the truth ... Colvin never slowed down long enough to write a memoir. Now, thanks to Hilsum’s deeply reported and passionately written book, she has the full accounting that she deserves.
Kirk Wallace Johnson
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewJohnson draws a fascinating portrait of Rist as a self-rationalizing con man and exposes the culture of secrecy and opportunism that marks his fellow fly-tiers. Still, Johnson’s self-aggrandizing pronouncements (\'no one else was going to hunt them down but me\') can be grating, as is his tendency to lapse into pumped-up, cliché-ridden prose.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...[a] meticulously researched and expertly paced thriller ... Harris steeps his tale in vivid descriptions of Europe on the brink of conflict. Londoners dig slit trenches in Green Park, fit their children with gas masks and raise barrage balloons to protect against aerial attac ... Like his breakthrough novel, Fatherland, set in a Nazified Germany 20 years after the Third Reich defeated the Allies in World War II, Harris’s new novel initially seems headed into the realm of fantasy. But it quickly becomes clear that Harris isn’t out to create an alternate history. Munich sticks close to the facts — even as it holds out the tantalizing hope of a different outcome.
Alain Mabanckou, Trans. by Helen Stevenson
RaveThe New York TimesThe narrator of Black Moses is among the most heartbreaking of Mabanckou’s creations ... Deftly translated by Helen Stevenson, Black Moses abounds with moments of dark humor, but the levity is balanced by Mabanckou’s portrait of a dysfunctional society rent by corruption, poverty, political instability and tribal rivalries. Underlying the narrative is a bitter sense of irony: This black Moses is no agent of deliverance; he’s just another lost soul wandering the streets of a hardscrabble town, with no promised land in sight.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe title story is the best in this fine collection, a novella-length account of the 60-day island-hopping boondoggle he took through the Caribbean ... Self-flagellation mingles with moments of romance, and meditations on the slave trade, Caribbean poverty and the perils of overdevelopment. Looming over the journey is Banks’s desperate hope for rejuvenation in the tropics, a magical place of second, third and fourth chances.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewMany of the pieces collected in Kingdoms in the Air are vivid portraits of iconoclasts and rugged individualists who have surrendered their Western comforts for adventure and higher purpose in the developing world ... Shacochis evokes the pains and pleasures of the trek with lyrical prose.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewSolomon’s pieces occasionally read as though he is emptying his notebooks, with long, rambling quotes from a succession of interview subjects. Far more often, his prose sparkles with insights and captivating description, whether he is observing camels in Mongolia (When they lack water, their humps droop like aging bosoms. At night, they howl — an eerie sound, like the spirits of purgatory crying out') or eating his way through China.