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The author of the short story collection Hickory Cured (1987) and historical novels Gone the Dreams and Dancing (1984) and Roman (1986) looks at the Spanish-American War through the eyes of a small group of American participants. Given our current involvement with various Central American governments, there couldn't be a better time to turn the searchlight on America's turn-of-the-century adventure in imperial warfare--the hysterical and grubby foray into Cuba to rid that island of the scourge of Spanish administration. The stow is told through the individual involvements of a handful of soldiers, ranking from a Swedish immigrant enlistee to a capable but politically inept General, all fictional, but all taking part in historically correct actions. In addition to the soldiers, there are a young nurse, an admirer of Clara Barton, who runs brutally into the disgusting carnage of war and funks completely, and a young lawyer who, along with his Osage Indian running mate, becomes attached to the general staff. It's a well-balanced, highly realistic approach. Each participant is carefully grounded in class and culture, so that each reaction to the progression of the war--from the bungled staging of the invasion force in Florida to the anticlimactic withdrawal of the Spanish--rings true. The offstage villains, press lords Hearst and Pulitzer, take the blame for much of the mess--though it might have been nice to have taken a closer look at their reporters, who seemed to be fanning flames to make reporting opportunities. Highly readable, full of intelligent detail, and--most unusual for a historical work--too short.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1988
Publisher: Henry Holt