Windy but charming plotboiler overflowing with interesting details about Spanish colonialism, heady Indian mysticism, and...



Overlong and gratuitously sexy and grotesque—but also highly entertaining—finish to Jennings’s trilogy of valiant Aztec Indian heroes who use their wits, cultural heritage, and sexual wiles to turn the tables on the conquering Spaniards.

A century after Aztec Autumn (1997), Cristobal the Bastard, a mestizo (Aztec Indian mother, unknown Spanish father) is resting between bouts of hideous (and graphically described) torture by the infamously perverse clerics of the Spanish Inquisitors, who provide him with pen, ink, and paper to write his confession. Unbeknownst to the clerics, Cristobal is also keeping a secret autobiography with disappearing ink (made of milk passed to him by a lactating woman in the cell next door). This tale, then, written in milk-ink, begins with Cristobal’s uncertain birth to a beautiful Indian woman enslaved as a mistress to a disgusting Spanish landowner, his rejection by both the Spaniards and the Indians for being of mixed blood, his life as a thief and beggar, his twin apprenticeships, first to the kindly, defrocked priest Antonio, who teaches him to read and write, then to an enigmatic Aztec healer, part charlatan, part mystic, who leads him on a visionary return to his Indian roots. The evil Spanish grandee Don Ramon wants to kill him for reasons that aren’t difficult to guess. After Don Ramon in fact does murder Father Antonio, Cristobal embarks on a series of improbably picaresque adventures in Mexico and then across the Atlantic to Spain itself, aided by the flamboyant actor Mateo and the fiery feminist Spanish aristocrat Elena, who falls for him but is betrothed to marry the loathsome Luis, Don Ramon’s loathsome son. Just as the last line of invisible ink dries, who should appear at Cristobal’s prison door but . . . ?

Windy but charming plotboiler overflowing with interesting details about Spanish colonialism, heady Indian mysticism, and numerous puns and winking references to the picaresque novels of the period.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-86251-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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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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