A deft political memoir that contains a national portrait.

Kava in the Blood

Thomson (Wild Vanilla, 2014, etc.) recounts the two Fijian coups of 1987 in his political memoir.

First published in 1999, this book covers the four months in the summer of 1987 when the government of the newly dominant Indo-Fijians was overthrown by first one and then another military coup. Thomson, a white Fijian of Scottish descent serving as the government’s permanent secretary of information, learned of the first coup when a group of soldiers in gas masks stormed into his office and a lieutenant colonel dictated to Thomson—at gunpoint—an announcement of the coup to be read on the radio. A series of maneuvers resulted in Governor General Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, a man whom Thomson claims to have respected more than any man other than his own father, becoming the sole executive of Fiji. In the months that followed, Thomson observed Ganilau’s attempts to enforce order and uphold the Fijian constitution as the small Pacific nation lurched unsteadily toward a new form of government. This updated edition, printed in 2008, includes new photographs as well as a second afterword explaining the evolution of the Fijian republic since 1999, including two subsequent coups that have “scarred Fiji’s political landscape.” From the first page, Thomson ably conveys his affection for his homeland: “When you lift your eyes landward from the sunburnt undulations of the Ra coast, you see the Nakauvadra mountain range rising three thousand feet above you.” National and personal history mix to form a narrative that feels as comprehensive as a fine social novel: Fiji is revealed from its highest seat of power to the ubiquitous kava drink shared by Fijians on the roadside. Thomson’s transitional moment of political power proves the perfect entry point to examine a society that has been in perpetual transition for centuries, and the anxieties of 1987 (and 1999 and 2008) seem as relevant today as they did then as nations continue to seek improved forms of government and are forced to contend with the unexpected consequences of revolution.

A deft political memoir that contains a national portrait.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4196-9576-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: BookSurge Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?