A vivid, well-researched history.



A history of the ragtag group of rebels who took down a powerful dictator.

Smithsonian contributing writer Perrottet (The Sinner’s Grand Tour: A Journey Through the Historical Underbelly of Europe, 2011, etc.) recounts the often madcap efforts of a small band of guerrilla soldiers to overthrow Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. At the forefront of this entertaining tale are two handsome, idealistic men, the Cuban Fidel Castro and the Argentinian Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and one sophisticated, elegant young woman, Celia Sánchez, Castro’s close friend and possible lover. The three, coming from respected, wealthy families, believed fervently in their mission to liberate the island from Batista’s military rule. In 1956, Castro and about 60 supporters gathered in Mexico City to train for rebellion. “Like an urban fitness camp,” writes the author, “they went on long walks up and down the tree-lined avenues,” and some men hiked in nearby mountains “with backpacks filled with stones.” They also devoted hours to studying “military theory.” Despite their determination, their training proved inadequate once they landed in Cuba and established their base in the inhospitable Sierra Maestra range. None of the “soft urban intellectuals” who made up the troop had ever seen the Sierra Maestra before, and they were unprepared for the torrid days and freezing nights, the relentless insects, and the slick, overgrown trails. As they hacked through the countryside with machetes, “every step became a battle.” Nor were they prepared to confront Batista’s army: In one battle, the rebels’ hand grenades—Brazilian army surplus—failed to go off, and a stick of dynamite fizzled. Perrottet smoothly follows the rebels as they gained hundreds of supporters and engaged in bold confrontations. Their successes were reported admiringly in the U.S., where articles portrayed Castro “as a cross between Pancho Villa and James Dean.” Despite his image as “the Robin Hood of Cuba,” however, Castro was a disorganized and moody leader; the guerrillas instead came to rely on Sánchez’s clearsightedness and practicality. By January 1959, against all odds, the rebels swept into Havana, victorious.

A vivid, well-researched history.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1816-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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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

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