Their Promised Land is a carefully and admirably written, highly readable work of social history told charmingly in a most intimate way through a close perusal of family correspondence. Buruma writes of British-born Jews of the upper-middle class with a great, sympathetic perspicacity and sweetness - these are after all his grandparents who are his subject - and, most revealingly, he traces with precision the effect on their lives of being Jews of German origin in their beloved England during the two world wars.
In this warmly affectionate, richly textured family chronicle, Ian Buruma draws on his own memories and a treasure trove of intimate letters, to uncover a moving love story, and paint a vivid picture of a seemingly idyllic world darkened by unexpected shadows... A fascinating, subtle, wonderfully readable book.
From these letters, Ian Buruma has woven an utterly engrossing story of cultivated, upper class German Jews who grew up in England and made its values their own... At once family memoir and history, this is a book to linger over and savour.
In Their Promised Land, Ian Buruma offers a searching, tender memorial of his grandparents' marriage that is, at the same time, a clarifying study in the complicated pleasures and discontents of multiple identity.
Ian Buruma, the critic, is justly famous for his ferocious acuity. Ian Buruma, the grandson, brings that same clarity of observation to this exceptional memoir, but he also writes with an elegiac tenderness that may surprise - and will deeply move - both his fans, and those readers who have yet to discover his magisterial gifts.
Buruma impressively captures his grandparents' remarkable lives in this insightful narrative. The author shapes his family's labor of a lifetime into a scintillating work of art.
Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
Buruma's book is a study of the mess that the world was in 1945, a mess we choose largely not to remember. It is also a brief but valuable study of how that mess began to be cleaned up. It gives us, too, simple lessons, both touching and terrifying, about how human beings are and can be... Excellent and lucidDavid Aaronovitch
A superbly written chronicle of the conflict's bittersweet aftermathIan Thomson
Sweeping... [The] book's most substantial merit is its grasp of the moral, social, and political confusions that pervaded every nation following the war... Buruma conveys a powerful sense of the horror and chaos of 1945Max Hastings
A graphic account - well-researched, splendidly constructed and stylishly written - of the hinge year of the twentieth century, of its horrors, hopes, illusions and roots of troubles to come. Altogether compelling - a fine achievement.Ian Kershaw
Moving and excellentNeal Ascherson
Brilliant... Year Zero is a major acheivement, a book of many parts, which commemorates a generation, as they stood on the brink of an unknown futureJoanna Kavenna
Ian Buruma's elegant and humane new book illuminates one of the most important modern
historical moments... As generations with few memories of the second world war come of age in Europe and Asia, this luminous book will remind them of the importance of what Buruma terms "mental surgeons", the politicians and warriors who reconstructed two continents left in rubble.
Ian Buruma's wonderful book is about a time, immediately after the end of the war, which has somehow fallen between the cracks of history, and which the author has now devastatingly brought to light... A compelling and astounding addition to the literature of the warChristopher Hudson
Buruma excels as a social historian of the aftermath of the war... It is hard to overstate Buruma's accomplishment in crafting the first truly worldwide account of perceptions and experiences in the pivotal years after the guns had fallen silent... OutstandingSamuel Moyn
Ian Buruma's lively new history, Year Zero, is about the various ways in which the aftermath of the Good War turned out badly for many people, and splendidly for some who didn't deserve it. It is enriched by his knowledge of six languages, a sense of personal connection to the era and his understanding of this periodAdam Hochschild
New York Times
It is well written and researched, full of little-known facts and incisive political analysis. What makes it unique among hundreds of other works written about this period is that it gives an overview of the effects of the war and liberation, not only in Europe, but also in Asia.Charles Simic
New York Review of Books
Year Zero - 1945 - is the founding moment of the modern era. Ian Buruma's history of that moment is vivid, compassionate and compelling.Michael Ignatieff
A brilliant recreation of that decisive year of victory and defeat, chaos and humiliation, concentrating on peoples, not states... In the face of so much horror, it is an astounding effort at deep comprehension. A superb book, splendidly written.Fritz Stern
Ian Buruma gives a heart-wrenching account of the horrors, the unimaginable cruelties, and the sheer stupidities of the last months of World War II, and the attempts to deal with them in the first months of peace.Brian Urquhart
Year Zero is a searing indictment of war, yet not about the Second World War itself but about its aftermath, the trauma, the revenge, the regrets, the desire to forget, the need to remember... This is Ian Buruma at his best.Donald Sassoon
Buruma is an admirably thoughtful writerDominic Sandbrook
Intelligent, fresh and compellingNicholas Shakespeare