A whirlwind tour through the history of a vast foreign land. One quibble: The profusion of unfamiliar names is overwhelming...



A character-rich narrative of the exploration and exploitation of the Amazon River and the land drained by it from the days of the first European explorers to today’s cattle ranchers, farmers and oil men.

Former book editor and publisher De Bruhl (Firestorm: Allied Airpower and the Destruction of Dresden, 2006, etc.) opens with facts and figures demonstrating the immense size and importance of the Amazon. Each of the subsequent chapters tackles a period of the history of the region, beginning with the Inca Empire and its destruction by the Spanish conquistadores and the Christian friars who sought to impose their faith on the indigenous people. Less well-known is the story of the aristocratic Isabel Godin, whose harrowing journey down the Amazon in the late 18th century is a truly amazing feat. De Bruhl then chronicles the travels of German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, whose writings laid the foundations for physical geography and meteorology. In the Victorian era, other scientists followed—Alfred Russel Wallace, Henry Walter Bates and Richard Spruce—and the author recounts the adventures of each. Spruce’s role in smuggling out cinchona seeds (the bark was used in the production of quinine) makes for fascinating reading. Similarly, De Bruhl’s account of the rubber boom and bust is a rich story, revealing much about the plantation aristocracy and the virtual enslavement of the rubber tappers. In the final chapter, “Exploitation, Despoliation, or Conservation,” De Bruhl discusses the impact of logging, cattle ranching, oil drilling and soybean farming, presents the arguments of environmentalists working to save the rain forests of the Amazon and discusses the pros and cons of the Brazilian government’s actions and inactions. As he writes, it is a tale of “greed, altruism, rapacity, generosity, preservation, exploitation, religious fervor, even genocide.” The Amazon’s problems are the world’s problem, he argues, and what happens there affects us all.

A whirlwind tour through the history of a vast foreign land. One quibble: The profusion of unfamiliar names is overwhelming and disorienting, requiring more help than that provided by the single map included in the book.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-58243-490-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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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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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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