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The three men are Charles Darwin, Beagle Captain Robert FitzRoy, and a Tierra del Fuegian island Yahgan Indian taken hostage, along with several others, on an earlier Beagle voyage. In reality, the book is about this native, named Jemmy Button by FitzRoy, and only incidentally and speculatively about the other two. Button was a boy when FitzRoy brought him the England with the intention of educating him and the others, making them Christians, and returning them to South America to serve as bridges to culture. FitzRoy, himself a devout believer, would be aided and abetted by missionaries who later formed the Patagonian Mission. The well-dressed Button and his companions were subsequently returned to their homeland and, it seems, quickly reverted to the old life style. Years later we meet Button again as one of a group of natives persuaded or commanded to attend a missionary camp on one of the Falkland Islands and later returned. Still later, there is a harrowing massacre of missionaries for which a survivor blames Button. By this time, however, political sentiment and economic interests in the Falklands were not so sympathetic to the mission and the forced settlement of Indians: Nothing happened to Button—except that he died of smallpox in 1864, preceding the eventual extinction of the race itself. And that is the story that Marks, author of two novels published in the 1950's, who ``wildcats for oil and natural gas,'' embroiders with much psychologizing and much limning of Yaghan society as nature raw in tooth and claw (yet possessed, it seems, of a rich language). In the end we hear about the career setbacks and depressions that led to FitzRoy's suicide and read about Darwin's fame and fortunes. (Marks would like us to believe that FitzRoy and Darwin were tied in a lifelong tension of friendship/conflict.) True, there are accounts of incredible personalities, brave missionaries, and skilled sea captains, but the whole saga smacks of a very b&w late-night movie.

Pub Date: April 17, 1991

ISBN: 0-394-58818-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1991

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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