It is difficult to think of John Dos Passos as a dull writer, or of the history of Portugal as a lusterless sequence of events. Yet, The Portugal Story manages somehow to make a reality out of both improbabilities. The narrative covers in some detail the ""three centuries of exploration and discovery"" that made Portugal, for a time, the world's leading commercial nation -- roughly from the middle of the thirteenth century until the extinction of the Aviz dynasty in 1580 and the subsequent seizure of the Portuguese crown by Philip II of Spain. It is a period remarkable for the complexity and color of its characters: Alfonso III--and Diniz; Nun'Alvares Pereira; Henry the Navigator, who laid the foundation of the Portuguese empire; Da Gama, Cabral, Almeida and Albuquerque, who raised their country to the pinnacle of eminence; Manuel I and John III, who ruled Portugal at its zenith. But out of this wealth of raw material, Mr. Dos Passos has been able to make only a textbookish tale astonishingly devoid of that love for life which animated Portugal during the centuries of her glory. Significantly, the pace quickens only when the author quotes, as he does too infrequently, contemporary narratives and chronicles. On the whole, the book has little to recommend it other than the author's name.