Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-04-02
- Reviewer: Staff
The "Second War of Independence" against Great Britain is remembered mainly for the burning of the White House and the Capitol, and as the inspiration for "The Star-Spangled Banner." Yet the conflict marked the coming-of-age of the American Navy and debut of the U.S. as a maritime power. To mark the war's bicentennial, Jenkins (The Civil War: A Visual History) and Taylor (Soul of a People) raise the 3-year conflict's profile with this encyclopedic survey of how a fledgling navy fared against "the mightiest fleet on the globe." The war was sparked by Americans' outrage at British trade blockades and their practice of impressment (forcing seaman to work on British naval ships). When the shooting finally started, the U.S. Navy had planned to play a defensive role, but victories from the Great Lakes to New Orleans soon changed this strategy. The history is chiefly told through the experiences of the war's great commanders, such as John Rodgers, Stephen Decatur, and James Lawrence. The result is an engaging series of narratives filled with fascinating historical flotsam (and facsimiles), such as a gruesome exploration of surgery at sea, and a brief look at the women who disguised themselves as men so they could fight. Though sanctioned by the U.S. Navy, Jenkins and Taylor seldom engage in cheerleading, offering instead a captivating story that will entice military and American history buffs. 345 illustrations. (Mar.) H The Patagonian Hare: A Memoir Claude Lanzmann, trans. from the French by Frank Wynne Farrar, Straus and Giroux, (496p) ISBN 978-0-374-23004-3 This remarkable debut by Lanzmann, world-renowned French journalist and film director most celebrated for his epic nine-and-a-half hour Holocaust documentary Shoah, illuminates the depth and breadth of a man's life in the context of enormous historical change and upheaval. His guiding voice weaves through events both comedic and grave, for just as his film is an oral history of the Holocaust, his memoir is an oral recollection of his life, told in great spurts of vocal energy (the text was dictated to assistants), fluid in time and chronology, and vividly detailed. Lanzmann discusses his work as a French resistance fighter during WWII, stealing philosophy books as a student in Paris, his relationship with Sartre and his affair with Simone de Beauvoir, and his sister's suicide. Lanzmann candidly reveals all, "simply to tell the truth." For "Where, if not in this book," he asks, "will it be told?" The incredible determination required to make Shoah speaks to Lanzmann's extraordinary artistic and humane vision: "I only obeyed my own rules, not yielding to the constraints of time or money, or those people who… pressed me to finish. But that was how I was." This captivating and inspiring memoir attests to the fact that Lanzmann unyieldingly remains an individual dedicated to telling stories that matter, including his own. (Mar.)