James Fenelon was trained as an airborne soldier, not as a historian, and it shows. Four Hours of Fury brings the fear and bravado of airborne warfare to life more vividly than any other book I've read. Indeed, I challenge anyone to read about the four hours -- an operation that actually lasted four days before settling down -- and to volunteer as a paratrooper, at least against an army as redoubtable as the one Germany mustered as late as March 1945. The experience was nothing short of terrible, with British and American losses on the first day alone coming to 2,700 paratroopers killed, wounded, or missing, many of them before their boots ever touched the ground, or when their transports and gliders were hit in the air or crashed upon landing. Mr Fenelon focuses almost entirely on the US 17th Airborne Division, telling the story hour by hour through the eyes of generals and GIs, pilots and soldiers, Americans and Germans. As a historian, though, he makes some howlers, including his insistence throughout the book that the German army was called the Wehrmacht, a word actually meaning the armed forces, including the air force (Luftwaffe), the navy (Kriegsmarine, and the army (Heer).
Books published by Amazon are usually second-rate, but I've found an exception in those translated from other languages. (I'm told that Amazon is now the world's largest publisher of books in translation.) The Boy Between Worlds is one such -- a sweet story about interracial love in the Netherlands, between a black lad from Surinam and a Dutch wife and mother who has left her rather abusive husband. They have a son, Waldy, and live a rather sweet and fairly prosperous life as innkeepers at the seashore near the Hague. Then the Germans arrive. Their idyllic seascape becomes part of the Atlantic Wall, the paying guests leave, and it seems the most natural thing in the world to fill the empty rooms with Jews from the Hague and farther afield. The couple are sent first to Dutch, then to German concentration camps, and neither survives the War. Annejet van der Zijl accomplished great feats of research, tracking them through the camps, and Kristen Gehrman rendered the story into English. I highly recommend the book, even though Amazon's hype about best-seller lists is pretty much a fraud.
Higher education is a bit outside my fields of interest, though for the next five years I will be responsible for marshaling two young women through the highly inflated groves of academe. I graduated from college with more money in the bank than I had when I arrived on campus, a feat pretty much impossible today, when the cost of a year at an Ivy just about equals median family income. In Restoring the Promise: Higher Education in America, conservative economist Richard Vedder attributes the obscene cost of attending college almost entirely to the Federal government's attempts to lessen those costs. As Ronald Reagan was fond of saying, "The most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help." Mr Vedder's book, amazingly, is an easy read. I recommend it to anyone trying to figure out why the United States does this thing so badly, selling an ever-less rigorous education to so many youngsters at an ever-increasing cost. Will his analysis do the slightest good? I doubt it.
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