A diligent but disorienting work, best suited for readers with a healthy appetite for all things archeological and Andean.



Documentary filmmaker and pre-Colombian historian Thomson (The White Rock, 2003, etc.) journeys to ancient archeological sites in Peru.

The author proves an adept and diligent tour guide in this scholarly work, though he’s less successful at bringing the extinct Andean civilizations to life. As he picks through the vine-covered ruins and desert arroyos, readers may feel like visitors to a dusty museum who never quite grasp just what they’re looking at. Because the Incas and the civilizations that preceded them left behind no written texts, many things about these master builders, skilled artists and resourceful survivors must be inferred by educated guesswork that doesn’t always satisfy. Mind you, the sites Thomson introduces often compensate. He and his team find extensive undiscovered ruins at Llactapata, sister city to Peru’s most famous archeological site, Machu Picchu. They visit the infamous Nasca lines: giant, elaborate designs carved into the landscape 500 years before the Incas arrived. Originally thought to be purely astronomical markings, the lines may have been followed by processions during ancient rituals, Thomson suggests. Indeed, some of those ancient rituals still exist. At the Festival of Qoyllurit’i, he joins thousands of costumed pilgrims in a bone-chilling all-night ascent of glacial mountains. At Sechin, he finds great pyramids rising nine stories tall, built as early as 1500 B.C.E. Along the way, he introduces us to colorful Peruvian locals and heroic unsung archeologists like Gordon McEwan, who has labored for 25 years in remote desert ruins. Among the eye-opening information Thomson imparts is the revelation that some pre-Inca civilizations were victims of ancient climate change, most likely fomented by El Niño; human sacrifice and gory mutilation may have been their groping attempts to halt the droughts and floods that eventually destroyed them.

A diligent but disorienting work, best suited for readers with a healthy appetite for all things archeological and Andean.

Pub Date: June 21, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-58567-901-0

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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