Kava in the Blood

A deft political memoir that contains a national portrait.

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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


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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