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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 1999
Mr. Michener spent the first 32 pages of the book explaining how it was that a writer in his 80's could produce so much in such a short period of time. It was almost an excuse. This book was originally intended to be a part of his massive Texas, but was dropped before the final editing. This book gives a very brief outline of the biographies of Santa Anna, the Eagle, and Sam Houston, the Raven. Though really just a thumbnail sketch of each man, Michener is not afraid to tell it like it really was, instead of the homogonized versions one usually finds in biographies. The subjects, Santa Anna & Houston, are fascinating, and Michener's sampling makes one long for a more detailed accounting of each man's life. Perhaps this was Michener's intent. The book is short, and somewhat choppy, jumping from man to man chronologically. As a book, it was very interesting, and a quick read. As an example of Michener's work......... look elsewhere.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2003
The Prologue tells about his past writings, and why he kept writing into his 80s: his job is to tell stories. This book was intended to be a chapter in his novel 'Texas', but was dropped because it was history and not part of the novel. Michener's reject can stand alone as a concise history of these men. Pages 29-30 notes his solid rules of work at 80: rise at 7:30, eat a frugal breakfast, write until 12:30. Eat a light lunch, take a nap, do research and teaching, then a brisk mile walk at dusk. Supper, the evening news, maybe TV, and the day ends. Michener lived to a ripe old age, after a quintuple heart by-pass, new left hip, dental rebuilding, and vertigo. Like an old apple tree, he kept on growing and producing. These pages are worth reading in themselves.
The book gives a concise history into the parallel lives of Santa Anna and Sam Houston. Both were destined to be famous politicians in their countries, but never did overcome their flaws. But how many of out politicians do when the historians release the uncensored facts?
Santa Anna won renown by his military action against the many rebellions. They were put down by executing most of the captured rebels, or making them imprisoned slaves. Santa Anna's talents lay in knowing just when to change sides. One morning Santa Anna led his troops against the rebels and was promoted to Lt Colonel. After lunch, he joined the rebels and was promoted to full Colonel! Santa Anna later supported Emperor Iturbide and became a General. All this suggests the Founding Fathers were right to require a small standing Army, and keep the professional military out of politics. This book does not explain who Santa Anna was fronting for; you'll need to read a more detailed history book. Page 112 tells of Santa Anna's use of double agents: military officers who pretended to defect to the Zacatecans, then betrayed the Zacatecan forces who also rebelled against the coup de etat.
The Mexican defeat at San Jacinto led to the capture of Santa Anna. Houston showed his political wisdom by getting Santa Anna to sign a treaty to be released. A live Santa Anna would try to justify his actions, and prevent another general from becoming ruler, and maybe starting another war against the smaller Texas. Houston became President of Texas, US Senator, then Governor. Houston opposed the Confederacy, and was removed from office. What would have happened if Houston used Union troops to stay in office? Could it have succeeded? At 68 Houston must have felt he had done as much as he could do in one lifetime. Houston retired to his farm and died in 1863 at 70 years.
Santa Anna was recalled from exile to lead Mexico into the war with America. Their defeat led to the loss of huge areas. Santa Anna was the most expensive President Mexico ever had! (I wonder if Santa Anna was a member of a Secret Society and a double agent? That would explain a lot.) Ever the opportunist, he backed the conservatives who invited Maximilian to be Emperor of Mexico. When the reign of Maximilian was on the wane, Santa Anna switched sides yet again. His one gift to America was to introduce chewing gum, a substitute for the ubiquitous chewing tobacco. Santa Anna returned to Mexico City a few years before his death to live in poverty and obscurity.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2003
I've never been a big Michener fan, but in this tome, he does an adequate job of comparing the lives and personalities of Santa Anna and Sam Houston. Riding on the hype of the Texas Sesquicentennial, Michener takes the reader on an informal tour of early Mexico and Texas. He touches on events in the U.S. as well as in Europe where they apply to the story. What I really enjoyed most were the excellent drawings by noted artist Charles Shaw. He is among the best!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2014
The Eagle and the Raven

Our recommendation ─ anytime you come across a James Michener book that's something less than a thousand-page blockbuster, read it. He's that good. And you might want to try one of his big books too, if you never have. Don't be daunted by their size. Michener's smooth prose will carry you along and you'll get through it more quickly than what you might have thought.

Michener's The Eagle and The Raven comes in at just over two hundred pages. Michener calls it narrative fiction, I call it non-fiction YA, not vampirish, grammar-stunted YA, call it historical YA, non-contemporary, historical YA, which isn't to say it's not suitable for adults, it is. It'll just seem breezy.

The first thirty or so of those two-hundred plus pages are a kind of long introduction that really doesn't have much, if anything to do with the story itself, except for a few pages telling us how the book came about. (It was a chapter excised from one of Michener's behemoths - Texas, 1120 pages.)

The rest of the introduction is Michener telling us (boasting,) about how prolifically he was writing in the nineteen-eighties, his last full decade of work. (He died in 1997 at the age of ninety.)

The book is the juxtaposition of two men who are, each in his way, the quintessential representative of his people at a turbulent time in Texas history, the period from roughly 1810 to 1870. During those years, Texas went from a colony of Spain, to a state of Mexico, to an independent country, to an American state, to a Confederate state and back to an American state again.

The Eagle is Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón, otherwise and usually known as Santa Anna, or, as he fancied himself, the Napoleon of the West. The Eagle was eleven times president of Mexico, four times banished from his country, and, toward the end of his life and for a short time, penniless on the streets of New York City. Santa Anna lost a leg in battle and the leg took on a life of its own, becoming a sort of saintly relic in Catholic Mexico. The veneration of the leg was interrupted, the leg dragged through the streets and thrown to the dogs while its owner was still alive, fitting, perhaps - the general was no saint, and how does a man react when he learns his leg, miles away, has become both the cause and the victim of a riot? Santa Anna shrugged.

Santa Anna was in some ways very capable but he was mostly cruel.

He learned about fighting when he was just a teenager and Mexico was still a part of the Spanish Empire. His teacher was a man named Arredondo who was also a capable soldier but whose success depended partly on spreading fear. Prisoners who surrendered were executed, a tactic Santa Anna learned well and implemented at The Alamo and Goliad and elsewhere. Civilians were massacred too. Both Arredondo and Santa Anna were terrorists, by their own century's standards, ours too.

The Raven, Sam Houston, comes late to the Texas drama. Born in Tennessee, he didn't arrive in Teja until long after Mexico had won its independence from Spain and Tejas was struggling to become Texas.

Houston was a frontiersman and an anomaly. Imagine a man who goes off to live with the Indians and who, while running through the woods with his adopted people, stops and pulls a copy of the Illiad out of his pocket, sits down and reads. Not your typical woodsie. I was reminded of Peter O'Toole as the eccentric Englishman, Lawrence of Arabia, in the 1962 movie, and of David Carradine in the 1970s classic western TV show, Kung-Fu. There are sketches in the book by Charles Shaw, well-known artist of things Texas and one of those sketches captures the essential Sam Houston. While still a young man and living with the Indians and visiting the settlements, Sam insists on dressing in Indian fashion, long blanket, feathers and moccasins. The Indian garb, like a lot about Houston in his lifetime, offends people and does Sam not realize he's offensive or does he not care? Probably the latter.

The book presents the Eagle and the Raven in alternating chapters and with a sense they are careening toward a showdown, which comes at the battle of San Jacinto. (I suppose if this were fiction instead of history, they'd have met at the Alamo, but Sam Houston was too smart to get holed up in an old church, like Davy Crockett and Jim Bridger and John Wayne.) You probably know, or can guess how it all turns out, it's Texas today, not Tejas, but you'll feel the rush of excitement, the acceleration, as you move toward the (seemingly inevitable) denouement.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 11, 2007
This is an odd effort in many ways. Coming in at just 211 pages of text (plus about 20 pages of appendices), this is a tiny Michener book. It is even more tiny when you consider that 28 pages of this book is a forward by Michener and about 20 pages of the book are taken up with blank pages between chapters and illustrations.

This Michener paperback was published in 1991 by Tor, a publishing house more well-known for its sci-fi and fantasy offerings. I would imagine that they just wanted to cash in on the Michener name since he was in the midst of a real hit streak with such books as "Alaska", "Caribbean" and "Poland" becoming best-sellers.

Tor calls this book a novel, although only a few pages really qualify as a novel, with inserted character dialogue that was most likely created by Michener. The rest of it is really best described as a comparative biography. While not the best of historical works, "The Eagle and the Raven" provides a comparison between Sam Houston of Tennessee and Texas and Santa Anna of Mexico. This is not a detailed biography by any means. I found myself wishing that he had went into a lot more detail, especially with the Mexican political situation.

Michener's forward to the book describes how and why he seemed to re-double his efforts as an author as he reached his eighties. In many ways, this is the most interesting portion of the book, especially if you are a Michener fan. In this forward the reader discovers that this book was actually a discarded chapter from his earlier book, "Texas." He did something similar with a discarded chapter from Alaska.

It would be fair to say that Michener did not give this chapter the same editorial treatment that he gave "Texas." Two factual errors jumped out at me as I read it - usually Michener and his editors catch them. Michener incorrectly attributes the eagle motiff on the Mexican flag to a Mayan legend (actually it was Aztec) and he claims Mexico was the first country in the New World to abolish slavery (it was Haiti). A little more editing would have eliminated the tiny amount of fiction that Michener inserted into the text (about 5 pages of conversation in a section at the end of the book) and Michener could have published this one as a dual biography rather than as a novel.

I give this one a grade of C+
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2009
I just finished reading this short and sweet segment of Texas history for the third time. The first time I read this, I was a student in honors Texas history. Now, I can appreciate this work from the perspective of a teacher.

I'm a little surprised at the bad reviews. This book was obviously not meant to be comprehensive treatment of either man, or of those fateful years for Texas. This is a supplementary work, meant to be appreciated in tandem with other sources.

Above and beyond this however, The Eagle and the Raven is a study of two men whose similarities almost overpower their differences. Michener astutely lines up the characteristics and events side by side so the reader can find the overarching pattern. The book is striking when seen for what it was meant to be--a character study of two of the most fascinating men in the 1800s.

This short treatise is handled expertly--I even found the prologue worthwhile and interesting, although it didn't fit exactly with the subject matter. However, Michener's patient weaving of the tale leaves the reader with something weighty to remember. Despite all of the bizarre similarities between Sam Houston and Santa Ana, the one pivotal difference creates a stunning divide and left consequences throughout history that we continue to feel today.

This is a highly, HIGHLY recommended work. Don't expect it to be a dissertation on Texas--Michener already did that. Take it as it is, meet Michener where he is at, and learn. He is a worthy teacher.

Highly Recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2009
One of the best semi-biographical books I have recently read. Compares and at times contrasts, the lives of Antonio López de Santa Anna and Sam Houston, heros from both sides of the border.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2014
Appropriate for junior high students through adults. Easy, fast read.
These two men were on opposing sides in the separation of Texas from Mexico. Their lives were both similar and very different. Fascinating to compare their parallel lives.
Be sure to read the prologue written by Michener about his enormous productivity in the last decade of his life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2013
Chose the book because he reveals the challenge he had writing his first children's book, South pacific. Michener is always honest and truthful. Enjoyed every word. In a short book Michener also reveals the true personalities, faults and strengths of the American and Mexican opponents of the Texican/Mexican wars.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 27, 2006
This 1990 book is basically a portion of TEXAS which had been edited out. It is a short and not particularly well written comparison of Santa Ana and Sam Houston. These biographies are presented in chronological order which necessitates jumping from one man to the other in alternating chapters for most of the work. Although Michener has apparently done his usual through research and made some insightful observations the subject just isn't very interesting to any but a serious scholar, and a serious scholar would be frustrated by its superficiality. It would have been much better to trim this down to a long magazine article.

The first 30 pages of the book are a long rambling foreward by Michener detailing his life leading up to the publication of this work. Michener gives us far too much detail about his relationships with his publishers and editors at this time, drops quite a few names - some of interest but most not particularly - brags about his accomplishments, and goes into mindnumbing detail about his writing schedule. The last seventeen pages contain transcripts and facsimiles of letters, a chronology and a suggested reading list. This leaves about 183 pages of actual text but there are several pages of illustrations, (which look as though they taken from an abridged children's novel) that have a blank page separating each from the next printed page which take up 40 additional pages leaving the actual work a mere 143 pages of actual text, actually less since the printing has be done to stretch this out as much as possible - each chapter begins half way down the page for example. The whole thing is reminiscent of a student attempting to stretch out meager work to a required length.

Take a pass on this one, it is not the typical riveting Michener work of fiction fans have come to expect and as a work of serious scholarship would merit a C at best.
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