The sensational careers of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos are set in the context of Philippine culture and political history. Hamilton-Paterson (Tragic Mountain: The Hmong, the Americans, and the Secret War for Laos, 1942—1992, 1993, etc.) has, unlike many other commentators, elected to try to understand rather than merely condemn the Marcoses for their egregious behavior during their 21-year reign in the Philippines. He certainly denounces the Philippine First Family for a plethora of crudities and crimes—e.g., Ferdinand fabricated his heroic military record in WWII and won elections so tainted that virtually no one believed the results; Imelda made of shopping an aerobic workout and kept on the palace grounds cases of the sandwich spread she’d craved as a child. But Hamilton-Paterson, a long-time resident of the Philippines and wise observer of the local mores, demonstrates convincingly that for much of their tenure the Marcoses enjoyed public favor; they helped elevate their nation economically and technologically. And with devastating clarity, he shows how the US government, which coddled and encouraged Marcos (in 1966 he addressed—and dazzled—a joint session of Congress), abandoned him only when the Vietnam War was over, only when we no longer had such an acute strategic need for his support, only when the media had turned against him. Throughout this illuminating book, Hamilton-Paterson periodically pauses to focus on a small, remote Philippine forest village (imaginary) he calls Kansulay. These lovely and lyrical sections—all in the present tense—reveal that not far from sprawling, madding Manila the old Philippine ways continue; we see that the Marcoses were representative of their class, rather than anomalous. A small problem: too often, Hamilton-Paterson, in a curious narrative decision, elects to block the graceful flow of his prose with cofferdams of quotations, some quite lengthy, from writers with little to add. A fascinating portrait of two extraordinary people, of a culture, of a country—a refreshing reminder of the powerful presence of ambiguity in human beings and in human affairs. (3 maps)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-6118-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999


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


Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005