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A Train of Powder Paperback – August 21, 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee; Softcover Ed edition (August 21, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566633192
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566633192
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,119,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


An astonishing book...Elegant narratives with lucid prose. (Francine Prose)

A beautiful example of journalism transformed into great art. (Carl Rollyson)

Brilliant and thought-provoking. (The Christian Science Monitor)

West is a powerful and deadly serious writer, aware that our age has a beast in view...this belongs to the art of the really superb journalist. (Maurice Dolbier Harpers Wine & Spirit)

Indisputably the world's Number 1 woman writer. (Time)

About the Author

Rebecca West was one of the foremost journalists of our time, best known for her books Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (about Yugoslavia between the wars) and The Meaning of Treason.

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Customer Reviews

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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Stacey M Jones on June 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
The headnote for A TRAIN OF POWDER: SIX REPORTS ON THE PROBLEM OF GUILT AND PUNISHMENT IN OUR TIME by Rebecca West is, "Our God is not out of breath, because he has blown one tempest, and swallowed a Navy: our God hath not burned out his eyes, because he has looked upon a train of powder." by John Donne. But I think West's point may be that mankind can get out of breath trying to blow out the tempest of determining guilt and innocence. This book is an examination of this situation, and in true West form, it's an insightful, enlightening and enriching examination. It took me about two weeks to read this 310-page book.

I found this book because I was tracking down a rumor that Rebecca West had written a book on the Nuremburg trials that was similar to her masterpiece Black Lamb and Gray Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia, which is one of the top five books I've read in my life. I could not track down this book until I read a biography of West, and I learned that this was the book. It is not the tour de force that Black Lamb is, but it is West; therefore, it is worth your time!

West writes six essays considering the issue of guilt and punishment in our time (well, 20th century, but it's cogent). Three of the essays are about how to distribute the guilt for WWII -- the holocaust and the partition of Berlin -- and are written over eight years as West investigates these issues and follows the results of the trials. And these essays are thoughtful, illuminating and they crystallize much of the thinking that spins around large issues like this. These essays, "Green House with Cyclamens" I, II and III focus on the humanity of all the players, their own lenses and their goals.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kirsten on February 13, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you're looking for a book dealing solely with the subject of the post-World War II Nuremberg trials, this one won't satisfy your thirst, despite the product description.

However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't give West's book your attention. The book is actually a series of short stories, all dealing with trials occurring in the aftermath of World War II. She begins with an account of Nuremberg, and the details West is known for shine through in her descriptions of the accused, of the town, of the supporting characters all shine. But she also delves deeper, giving insight into what she feels is the true goal of international law.

Some of the other stories are even stronger. West describes the trial of a man accused of murder, who allegedly threw the pieces of the body into the sea. Again, the details are poignant: she presents both sides of the story, describes the marsh and the family of the man who found the body, the wife of the accused. These are small pieces, often left unnoticed in accounts that chillingly recite facts.

Over and over, West contemplates the guilt of the accused, and often the reasons behind bringing him to stand trial. Her observations are nuanced, and rather than a simple rendering of both sides of the story, you can almost imagine that she's having an inner dialog with herself.
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By amityshlaes on January 29, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Go back to "Train of Powder" every five years to remind yourself of the quality we seek in cultural reporting.
West's portrait of Lord Haw Haw, William Joyce, cannot be forgotten. Also recommend, but not for every five years, the film "The Last Hangman."
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