Reviews by patricia alvis
Goodwin is a thorough researcher and writes readable prose, which contribute to make this an important history of this period. Aside from getting to know a lot about two of our truly great leaders, there are wonderful details of where things were at the time--the US senators chosen by the state legislators, not by popular vote; the presidential candidate aloof from politics; his first public appearance his acceptance of his candidacy.(will we yearn for that over the next months?). Integral to the quality of the report,Goodwin describes the role of the reformist journalists, the so-called "muckrakers", centering on S. S. McClure and his assembly of writers.
First you think he's gutsy, if a little cantankerous, as he sets off in his pink slippers. Then you begin to suspect he's not exactly an admirable character. And then you just wait to see what he'll do next, and find yourself laughing out loud. The other characters are equally off-center, in this neatly ironic look at human existence
How often do we focus our attention on the events of World War II in Malaysia? This is a worthy introduction to the subject. The use of fiction allows the bringing together of persons from all aspects of life in that area at the time and after. Malaysia as the war began was a set of mostly British colonial sectors. Amid the Japanese invasion, there were also political movements and rumblings of an independence movement. The Afrikaaner tea planter is a veteran of the Boer War with no reason to approve of British rule except for business reasons. The Japanese gardener appears to have dissociated himself from Japanese imperial aspirations. Yun Ling, the Straits Chinese, who cannot speak Chinese, was educated in British mission schools, and is described satirically by a Malaysian as looking to England as her homeland. These people, living in proximity, furnish important elements in one another's lives over several generations. This is a rich tapestry of all the people and events and ambitions of a particular time and place. In the end, the reader is left with a set of acquaintances worth caring about, and some questions about the world we live in to ponder for a considerable time.
Reading the two A2Y finalists, I could not help comparing the two, and by that measure alone, this one falls very short. Yes, it is a sad story, and yes it is based in history. Ask yourself, how many books have you been asked to admire because they place identifiablly good people at the mercy of identifiably bad people? Did this one add any nuance to the standard story? The author 's ethnic heritage is Lithuanian, but there is no evidence that she knew very much about the history of the Baltic nations, the relationships amon the Slavic peoples, their reasoning in escaping from the USSR via Hitler's Germany. If we are to learn from history, we must view it in living color, not just shades of gray, mostly black and whire. This author is at the beginning of her career. She needs to dig deeper.
This book is one of many reflecting the anxiety resulting from the publication of The Origin of the Species. The underworld visited by the narrator is inhabited by a race further evolved than 19th century humans, and the narrator finds them pretty disturbing. If you want to get serious, you can read scholars on the misunderstanding of the theory of natural selection that precipitated draconian ideas about eugenics that permeate social and political philosophy up to this minute. This is just a yarn about an imaginary place. Incidentally this new edition has on the dust jacket an illustration painted by John Marten?? for a 19th century edition of Paradise Lost. See if it doesn't remind you of practically every sci fi setting including Avatar. Have fun.