British historian von Tunzelmann (Red Heat) skillfully and artfully integrates the complex, simultaneous Suez and Hungarian crises of 1956 into a single story of Cold War conflict as no one has before. Her day-by-day, sometimes hour-by-hour, staging of events and of the characters who caused and managed them is a deeply researched achievement. If there’s a pivot to the book, it’s U.K. Prime Minister Anthony Eden’s unhinged feelings about Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser, whose government seized and blocked the Suez Canal. But the Soviet-American military stakes were probably higher in Hungary, whose tragic fate was left to Soviet brutality. That neither crisis precipitated world war was thanks in large part to the Eisenhower administration’s determination, in the midst of Ike’s reelection campaign, not to aid Britain, France, and Israel in reversing Nasser’s canal seizure, and its less defensible decision to leave Hungary to its fate. Snappy prose and revealing evidence carry the often riveting story along. But it’s hard to find an argument, idea, or interpretation anywhere in the book—that is, to learn von Tunzelmann’s considered views. If fact-filled narrative were all there was to historical writing, this book would be unsurpassed; history being more than chronicle, the book suffers as a result. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/18/2016 Release date: 10/01/2016 Genre: Nonfiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.