Nonfiction Previews, Jun. 2013, Pt. 2: Jesus, Lord Nelson, the Lady of the Camellias, and More

Glass, Charles. The Deserters: A Hidden History of World War II. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Jun. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9781594204289. $27.95.
As author of the much-praised Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation, former ABC News correspondent Glass proved that he could writes rigorous but accessible history. Here he considers deserters during World War II, a far more nuanced subject than one would imagine. Many soldiers fought bravely one day and then turned tail the next, to be comforted by their comrades when they returned. Then there’s the case of Private Alfred Whitehead, a Silver and Bronze Star winner from Tennessee who became a gangster in liberated Paris. A good myth buster of relevance today; big online campaign.

Kavanagh, Julie. The Girl Who Loved Camellias: The Life and Legend of Marie Duplessis. Knopf. Jun. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780307270795. $25.95. BIOGRAPHY
Kavanagh peels back the petals to give us a portrait of the woman who inspired Alexandre Dumas fils’s The Lady of Camellias and Verdi’s La Traviata. Born in Normandy in 1824, Marie Duplessis fled to Paris at age 16 to escape her brutish father and by 19 was a grand courtesan boasting the clothes, apartment, and handsome coach of an aristocrat. A few years later she was dead of tuberculosis. An award-winning biographer of Frederick Ashton who has served as London editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, Kavanagh should bring an artistic sensibility to the proceedings.

Parini, Jay. Jesus: The Human Face of God. New Harvest. Jun. 2013. 192p. ISBN 9780544025899. $23. BIOGRAPHY/RELIGION
Noteworthy poet/novelist Parini, whose best-selling The Last Station was made into an Academy Award–nominated film, here offers an account of a figure much discussed over the last two millennia. Son of a Baptist minister, Parini aims to reinvest Jesus with a certain transcendent radiance, often lost in today’s historiography. This is the first in a new series, “Icons,” edited by James Atlas—who has also brought us “Penguin Lives,” “Eminent Lives” (HarperCollins), and “Great Discoveries” (Norton), so great expectations are reasonable.

Pivnik, Sam. Survivor: Auschwitz, the Death March and My Fight for Freedom. St. Martin’s. Jun. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781250029522. $26.99. BIOGRAPHY
Pivnik really earned the title of his book. After the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, he survived two ghettos in his hometown, Bedzin; months of waiting on the deadly Rampe Kommando at Auschwitz, where the rest of his family perished; work in the Fürstengrube mining camp; the awful death march west from Auschwitz into Germany; and the inadvertent RAF bombing of a prison ship. Another invaluable reminder of what we should never, ever forget.

Ricca, Brad. Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster—the Creators of Superman. St. Martin’s. Jun. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780312643805. $27.95. BIOGRAPHY
We all think we know the story of Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster—and the $130 check that yanked the Man of Steel from their control. But Case Western Reserve professor Ricca, who speaks frequently on comics, dug through various Cleveland libraries, defunct high schools, and private collections to offer this definitive account, ranging from original inspiration to Jerry Siegel’s secret work during World War II. Nicely timed to go with the Man of Steel movie scheduled to open in 2013.

Sugden, John. Nelson: The Sword of Albion. Holt. Jun. 2013. 944p. ISBN 9780805078077. $45. BIOGRAPHY
traced the early life of the hero of Trafalgar in the much-praised Nelson: A Dream of Glory (the London Sunday Times called it “a masterpiece of the biographer’s art”), Sugden returns to blend accounts of Nelson’s various campaigns until his death at Trafalgar with more intimate scenes of his personal life. Sugden’s determined plundering of primary documents is evidenced by the page count; clearly a rich and many-sitting read.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.