Historical background of Civil War in the Argentine more than 100 years ago, for a novel with a fictional character as its central figure. Strangely prophetic of dictatorship in these enlightened (?) times -- as Rosas (a Hitler or Stalin of his day) held Argentine in the grip of terror for long years of military control. Blanco Landerson, Argentinian born son of an English father, a skilled gaucho at sixteen, but promised- by his foster father- to a career as a student, clopes with the lovely, rebellious, young daughter of an itinerant and aspiring merchant. But before Blanco and Petra are legally man and wife, Blanco gets involved with Rosas' soldiers- serves a brief jail sentence and is inducted into the rebel troops, alternately serving on Rosas' ranch and with the warring units. Through his superior officer, Rodrigo, Blanco and Petra are reunited for an idyllic marriage which fulfills them both up to her tragic death, victim of one of Rosas' blood purges. Their story is told against an ebb and flow of civil warfare, changing authority, faith to an ideal of serving the people, to bring the pampas and the cities together- and betrayal to the forces of cruelty and lust and power. A black page of history- as Quiroga and Rosas outdo each other in excesses of violence; as Federalist and Unitarian conceptions are pitted against each other. Too little is known of specific facets of South American history; this picaresque novel -- cloak and sword romance -- will bring one segment of Argentine's history into vigorous life. Good reading, for those who like this lusty, often bloody, type of novel. Crowell's big book of the season. Watch it.