The great liberator Simón Bolívar (1783–1830) receives a colorful treatment by an admiring British journalist.

Harvey (The Fall of Apartheid: The Inside Story from Smuts to Mbeki, 2002, etc.) sees in Bolívar’s evolution the epitome of the Romantic hero. He was a spoiled son of Venezuela who seized sobering ideas from his enlightened tutor and from far-flung travels to Europe, and, after a terrible clash with adversity, he joined the rebel movement against the Spanish oppressors of his homeland. Harvey examines Bolívar’s later greatness from his early revolutionary seeds. He was born to an independent-minded family from northern Spain that broke off from the Castilian state in the late 16th century to migrate, and Bolívar grew up within a charmed life in Caracas and demonstrated early on an ungovernable spirit. His formative experiences included being tutored by the unorthodox Simón Rodríguez, steeped in Rousseau’s Emile, his ill-fated young marriage (his bride died after less than a year) and witnessing the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte, whom Bolívar had worshipped before he proved to be a “hypocritical tyrant.” Inculcated in the Spanish criollo system of feudalism, Bolívar had also soured on the oppressive Spanish reign that had denied his family a certificate of pure blood; he grew to abhor what he witnessed as the exploitation of Latin American resources and people “to satisfy the insatiable greed of Spain.” Harvey ably weaves the context around Bolívar’s daredevil vision to challenge the powerful Spanish empire built by central authority, the church and military. Later in life, Bolívar displayed the ruthlessness, daring and literary eloquence that would ultimately liberate millions of enslaved, illiterate South Americans and inspire a continent—as well as create a troubling legacy of authoritarianism that would wreak bloody havoc after him. An energetic, satisfyingly florid narrative that captures the passion and frenzy in this extraordinary life.


Pub Date: June 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-61608-316-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?

A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation.


A firsthand account of how the Navajo language was used to help defeat the Japanese in World War II.

At the age of 17, Nez (an English name assigned to him in kindergarten) volunteered for the Marines just months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Growing up in a traditional Navajo community, he became fluent in English, his second language, in government-run boarding schools. The author writes that he wanted to serve his country and explore “the possibilities and opportunities offered out there in the larger world.” Because he was bilingual, he was one of the original 29 “code talkers” selected to develop a secret, unbreakable code based on the Navajo language, which was to be used for battlefield military communications on the Pacific front. Because the Navajo language is tonal and unwritten, it is extremely difficult for a non-native speaker to learn. The code created an alphabet based on English words such as ant for “A,” which were then translated into its Navajo equivalent. On the battlefield, Navajo code talkers would use voice transmissions over the radio, spoken in Navajo to convey secret information. Nez writes movingly about the hard-fought battles waged by the Marines to recapture Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and others, in which he and his fellow code talkers played a crucial role. He situates his wartime experiences in the context of his life before the war, growing up on a sheep farm, and after when he worked for the VA and raised a family in New Mexico. Although he had hoped to make his family proud of his wartime role, until 1968 the code was classified and he was sworn to silence. He sums up his life “as better than he could ever have expected,” and looks back with pride on the part he played in “a new, triumphant oral and written [Navajo] tradition,” his culture's contribution to victory.

A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-425-24423-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dutton Caliber

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet