In The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw brings to life the stories of a generation of people who taught America what courage really is--from the front-In The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw brings to life the stories of a generation of people who taught America what courage really is--from the front-line heroes and heroines to the workers and loved ones at home. Each teaching us about sacrifice, honor, and bravery in their own way. Brokaw brings us profiles of the ordinary men and women who answered their nation's call and who returned home to continue their quiet lives with dignity and a sense of community spirit. He also highlights the lives of more prominent veterans whose service to their country didn't end when the war was over--men and women who served in high levels of government and the armed forces even after the peace treaties were signed.
The stories are poignant and and touching--revealing the depths of sacrifice behind each profile. They are stories of loss and love, friendship and valor. They touch on the challenges that the women who served (or worked at home in place of the absent men) faced when the war was over. The difficulties in being forced to return to pre-war expectations. They also highlight the discrimination that all Americans of color faced even as they volunteered to put their lives on the line for their country.
This is a very moving account that brought tears to my eyes at times and made me proud of the generation who came together for a common cause in the name freedom. How very different our world might be if the men and women of the 30s and 40s had been less dedicated, less resolute in their determination to serve their country (and the Allies) in a time of great need. My only quibble with the book is that it seems so very formulaic--introduce the hero/heroine, give a brief history pre-war, give another brief synopsis of their war-time assignment, and then tell what productive lives they had afterward. A bit more personal attention and a feeling of story-telling, rather than rote recital would bring this up to five stars....as it is: four stars.
The author, a Union general at both Chancellorsville and the Battle of Gettysburg, was purported to be the inventor of baseball--this has been debunkeThe author, a Union general at both Chancellorsville and the Battle of Gettysburg, was purported to be the inventor of baseball--this has been debunked by almost all sports historians--although Doubleday himself never made such a claim. The book was initially published about 20 years after the Civil War ended. Doubleday's convictions permeate the book. As a commanding office in both battles, his perspective is essentially that of a military professional, yet is strongly flavored by personal feeling. In revisiting these campaigns, he rekindles old political hostilities that had lain dormant for almost 20 years.
My take: The 20 years theme is kind of interesting. Doubleday wrote this account about 20 years after the war had ended. I've had this reprint edition for almost 20 years. Back in 1996 when my parents wanted a suggestion for a birthday present, I gave them this title (among other present options) and it wound up on my shelf. Life and other interests have gotten in the way and I just now have gotten around to reading it. And, let me tell you, a gripping story-teller Doubleday ain't. This is a very dry-as-dust blow-by-blow rattling off of every little military move of the two campaigns. "General So-and-So had a brigade (division...regiment...insert suitable military unit) of Umpity-Thousand men. It was decided to move them over the XYZ Gap to try and hold off the enemy--Rebel General Whosiwhatsit's brigade (division... regiment...you get the idea) of Hmm-Hmm Thousand men." The only time Doubleday gets passionate or injects any interesting bits into his narrative is when he is talking about how General So-and-So disobeyed this order or that OR when various generals disagreed with one another or jockeyed for position.
Give me Michael Shaara's account of Gettysburg in The Killer Angels any day. 2 stars--very informative, but better as a sleep aid than as a riveting tale of the Civil War.
Satan's Circus: Murder, Vice, Police Corruption, and New York's Trial of the Century by Mike Dash does exactly what you'd expect that long title to doSatan's Circus: Murder, Vice, Police Corruption, and New York's Trial of the Century by Mike Dash does exactly what you'd expect that long title to do....try to cover way too much material in one book. Er, wait, no. That's not what I expected the book to do, actually--although that's what I got. When I picked it up and read the book flap, I expected the book to tell the story of Charley Becker, a NY cop at the turn of the century (turn of last century, that is). Charley Becker was a handsome lieutenant who had been decorated as a hero, had led the department's vice-busting Special Squad, and who wound up on trial for his life--accused of arranging the murder of one of the members of Manhattan's underworld. Becker was also, at the time of the writing of this book, the only police officer in the United State to be executed for murder.
It does tell that story. But Dash doesn't just stick to that story. He's gives great detail on the history of the police department and the history of vice in the city--everything from prostitution to gambling to gang warfare. It tells us all about Tammany Hall and Teddy Roosevelt's efforts to clean it up. It, in fact, tells way too many stories in one book. By the time we get to the "Trial of the Century" we're pretty weary. We've slogged through so much information that working our way through the ins-and-outs of the evidence and the DA's all-out determination to send Becker to the chair, we're kind of over-whelmed.
Dash had a great central story. Was Becker a good cop gone bad? Was he just a normal guy--normal by the standards of the times he grew up in--who had taken advantage of the same opportunities for graft that his fellow policeman had taken and somehow become the fall guy for an overly ambitious DA? That is a story worth telling. If I stick to just that story--then this is a very interesting book. Having finished it, I can't tell you if Becker was guilty or not. He, like so many public officials at the time, was definitely on the take. So, he was no saint. But a murderer--or the man behind the murder? I just don't know. What I can say is, given the evidence and details that Dash recounts, Becker did not get a fair trial. It becomes obvious that the DA, who was a publicity-seeker looking for a way to rise in politics, was absolutely intent on getting a conviction and didn't much care how he got it. Witnesses were allowed free rein to collaborate on stories. The judge, who was very anti-police, put every obstruction possible in the way of the defense.
This could have been a great book. I wish that Dash had stayed more closely tied to his central story. And I wish that, rather than rattling off fact after fact--especially when it came to the trial--he had given us more human interest. By the end of the book, I felt like I should be feeling a lot more invested in some of these people. I should feel more when Helen Becker, Charley's wife, pleads for the Governor (who just happens to have been the prosecuting DA at the time of the trial) to issue a stay of execution for her husband. But I didn't. My first thought was "Hurray, I'm done!" Three stars for the story itself and detailed information. Better execution, please pardon the pun, would have put it in the four- or maybe even five-star range....more
A delightful book full of pictures and information about the Oxford circle that included C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien. Very interesting! Three and a haA delightful book full of pictures and information about the Oxford circle that included C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien. Very interesting! Three and a half stars....more
Better pacing would have helped this book immensely. But overall--very interesting and a good look at one of the early crime sensations of the 20th CeBetter pacing would have helped this book immensely. But overall--very interesting and a good look at one of the early crime sensations of the 20th Century. Well-researched....more