One of the lingering controversies of World War II concerns the role of the Roman Catholic Church, and whether its leadership — specifically, Pope Pius XII — provided meaningful opposition to the Nazi regime. Jewish groups have been especially vocal in criticisms of Pius for his supposed “silence” about the Holocaust.
If all those books on the many aspects of Winston Churchill have definitely demonstrated the contradictory nature of the man and his career, this probing, well-researched and wise biography of his wife proves that she was a veritable mass of contradictions. From her aristocratic but impoverished background to her role as wife, mother and public figure, seemingly everything about her defies easy categorization.
Psychological mysteries are a Ruth Rendell specialty, and her final book is no exception. It is an exploration of an ostensibly average group of people and how they become involved in a murder over failure to pay rent. The decline and fall of Carl Martin might be considered a warning about what a really nasty tenant can do to a landlord.
Perhaps it is because songs are called by the name their lyricist has given them that their composers sometimes seem to be less-known than the wordsmiths. Unless, of course, when they have been part of an indelible duo that has somehow entered the lexicon of musicals, like Rodgers and Hart, or Kern and Hammerstein, or after Kern and Hart dropped off, that rare successful remarriage Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Political polls, although increasingly iffy and unreliable, have become a growth industry, with the national media, caught up in a relentless wave of cutbacks and downsizing, routinely using them as primary sources for stories — a practice no editor would have countenanced not too many years ago.
As the latest terrorist atrocity in Paris demonstrates, radical Islam exhibits a veritable blood lust at the retail level. While politics undoubtedly was behind the attack — French planes had been bombing Islamic State territory for more than a year — the killers deployed theology to justify slaughtering 130 common people just going about their lives.
Many Americans know little more about the War of 1812 than the burlesqued facts that the British chased Dolley Madison from the White House, torched Washington and locked up Francis Scott Key on a ship to witness the bombardment of Fort McHenry and write “The Star-Spangled Banner.”