New History picks for April

This month we have selected history books that focus on how individuals coped and still cope with historical events, sometimes of their making.

Syndetics book coverShadow lives : the forgotten women of the war on terror / Victoria Brittain ; foreword by John Berger ; afterword by Marina Warner.
“Shadow Lives reveals the unseen side of the ‘9/11 wars’: their impact on the wives and families of men incarcerated in Guantanamo, or in prison or under house arrest in Britain and the US. Shadow Lives is both a j’accuse and a testament to the strength of women”–Cover. (courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverNapoleon on St Helena / Mabel Brookes.
“Mabel Brookes’ ‘Napoleon on St Helena’ is one of the best accounts of the fallen Emperor’s 5 1/2-year imprisonment, which ended in 1821 with his death from a stomach ulcer. It presents the full story of Napoleon’s household, with its conflicting personalities and domestic arrangements, his relationship with the local and military residents, and the long-standing feud between Plantation House and Longwood”–Cover.

Syndetics book coverThe girls of Atomic City : the untold story of the women who helped win World War II / Denise Kiernan.
“During WWII, Oak Ridge, Tenn., was one unlikely epicenter of the Manhattan Project, the top secret program that produced the atomic bomb. Selected in 1942 for its remoteness, the area, “a big war site” hiring at top dollar, immediately boomed; from across the U.S., tens of thousands of workers streamed in-many of them women looking to broaden their horizons and fatten their purses. Fully integrated into the system, women worked every job, from courier to chemist. They found an “instant community” with “no history,” but also “a secret city… [and] a project whose objective was largely kept from them.” Living conditions were Spartan-urine samples and guards were intrusive constants-but the women lived their lives. Kiernan’s (Signing Their Lives Away) interviewees describe falling in love and smuggling in liquor in tampon boxes. But like everyone else, those lives were disrupted by news of Hiroshima. “Now you know what we’ve been doing all this time,” said one of the scientists. Many moved on; others stayed-Atomic City had become home. But for the women of Oak Ridge, “a strange mix of… pride and guilt and joy and shame” endured. This intimate and revealing glimpse into one of the most important scientific developments in history will appeal to a broad audience. 16-page b&w insert. Agent: Yfat Reiss Gendell, Foundry Literary + Media. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved” (Publisher Weekly) (Courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverEvents, dear boy, events : a political diary of Britain from Woolf to Campbell / edited and introduced by Ruth Winstone.
“Ruth Winstone retells Britain’s history through the great diarists of the last century, drawing back the curtain on the lives of political classes, their doubts, ambitions, and emotions. She moves deftly among those in the thick of it, showing the elation, anger, doubts, jealousy, joys and fears of those such as Nicolson, Cooper, Channon, Macmillan, Castle, Clark, Benn, Campbell, Mullin and Ashdown as they record their own and the nation’s triumphs and disasters. To this potent mix she adds the mordant perceptions of observers like Virginia Woolf, Cecil Beaton, Peter Hall and Roy Strong, and the vivid records of everyday life found in the diaries of otherwise ordinary men and women. Events, Dear Boy, Events reveals Britain’s recent past in te words of the actors who were shaping events of the day as they were happening. This is living real-time history.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHelga’s diary : a young girl’s account of life in a concentration camp / Helga Weiss ; translated by Neil Bermel.
“As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles dramatically, the potency of ­firsthand accounts increases with each passing year. Weiss’ adolescent diary begins in Prague in 1938 with the Nazi occupation and ends shortly before her deportation from the Terezin concentration camp to Auschwitz in September 1944. Preserved by her uncle, who bricked it into a barracks wall at Terezin, her diary was completed after the war by her recording of later experiences at the Auschwitz, Freiberg, and Mauthausen camps. Illustrated with family photographs and her own paintings and drawings, Helga’s Diary serves as a remarkable testament to her horrific journey and the ultimate resiliency of youth. Since so few of the approximately 15,000 children interred in Terezin survived, Helga’s Diary, like the collective reminiscences in Hannelore Brenner’s The Girls of Room 28 (2009), must speak for all the young voices that were prematurely stifled.–Flanagan, Margaret Copyright 2010 BooklistFrom Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.” (Booklist) (courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverThe bloody white baron : the extraordinary story of the Russian nobleman who became the last Khan of Mongolia / James Palmer.
“Palmer introduces readers to a little known, and very bizarre, episode of post-Revolutionary Russia and to its main actor, the anti-Semitic and genocidal Baron Ungern-Sternberg. One of the leaders of the anti-Bolshevik forces in Siberia, Ungern-Sternberg and his army were pushed by the Bolsheviks into Mongolia, which had recently broken free from China. Conquering the country with cavalry–the last person in history to do such a thing–Ungern-Sternberg established a medieval-style dictatorship, murdering Jews and political opponents in a pogrom that foretold later atrocities by the Nazis. Writing in a popular style, Palmer vividly conveys the details of Ungern-Sternberg’s rise to power and his eventual dispatch at the hands of victorious Soviet forces. This is a paperback reprint of a book published in cloth in 2009. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (” (Syndetics summary)

Alone : an inspiring story of survival and determination / by Alina Suchanski.
Alone tells the story of a young Polish orphan who came to Pahiatua in 1944. Based on the life of her stepfather Tony Laparowski, it recounts his early childhood in Poland, his family’s deportation to the Soviet Union at the start of World War II where both his parents had perished, and his journey as an orphan from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Persia to New Zealand. Although Alina’s stepfather read the completed manuscript, sadly he hasn’t seen his story in print. He passed away in May 2012 before Alone was published.” (Staff member)