Travel fans will enjoy Montgomery's colorful, evocative narrative, but will want to take his survey of South Seas folklore...




Following in the footsteps of his missionary great-grandfather, Montgomery journeys to the remote South Seas in search of pagan rituals, native magic and the story of an early martyr.

What he finds is hardly idyllic. Leapfrogging among south Pacific archipelagos—the Solomons, the Reef Islands and Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides)—Montgomery encounters natives still struggling to escape ignorance, poverty and civil war. True, the cannibalism once practiced in Melanesia is gone. But instead of the lush paradise one would expect, Montgomery discovers that most of these remote island outposts have hardly progressed since American GIs moved on following World War II. With no jobs and no prospects, natives seem to spend most of their days drinking kava or chewing betel nuts, two opiates derived from local plants. The author sets out in search of the pagan rituals that are still being practiced there despite a century of evangelical work by Anglicans, Seventh-day Adventists, Roman Catholics and others. Montgomery finds that native magic, or “kastom,” still holds great power among the locals, but the supposed “shaman,” or holy men, seem generally to be drug-hazed con artists whose boasts of magic powers and native myths would make most grade-schoolers skeptical. Not Montgomery: Indeed, the author approaches his subject with the conviction of a wide-eyed believer, even after one shaman after the other declines his requests for a demonstration of magic powers. Montgomery is a talented writer, and this tour is delivered in vivid, precise prose, but his failure to ask hard questions and his tendency to strain for drama where it doesn't exist mar what should have been a more clear-eyed travelogue.

Travel fans will enjoy Montgomery's colorful, evocative narrative, but will want to take his survey of South Seas folklore with more than a few grains of salt.

Pub Date: July 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-076516-X

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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