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An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean (Early American Studies)
An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean (Early American Studies)
by Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy
Edition: Paperback
Price: $29.02
102 used & new from $10.95

4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointing Book, August 8, 2011
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Having an interest in West Indian and American history, I was excited to find a book on this subject; however, I found this particular book extremely disappointing. It is such a turgid and difficult read that it can only be someone's doctoral thesis which has been dressed up for publication. In addition, since the approach is topical rather than chronological, it difficult to form an overall impression of the historical events with which it deals. Moreover, it presumes a detailed prior knowledge of the American Revolutionary War without which the context of much that is recounted is obscured. One does not really emerge with an understanding of the impact of the American Revolution on the British Caribbean or the reverse. This is an important topic and it is a pity that this material was not handled in a more interesting, coherent way by a better writer. Unless you are an academic with an interest in this topic, it would be advisable to avoid this book.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 25, 2013 7:55 AM PDT


The Trouble in Suriname, 1975-1993:
The Trouble in Suriname, 1975-1993:
by Edward M. Dew
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $118.00
35 used & new from $51.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Even more relevant today than yesterday, June 2, 2010
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While there may be a considerable literature on the political history of Suriname in Dutch, Dew seems to be the only academic writer in English on this subject. Having read his previous book `The Difficult Flowering of Suriname' which is available in paperback, I was interested in reading this book, but postponed buying it because of its exorbitant price. Now, I consider myself fortunate to have obtained a copy, as I am sure that (despite having been published some 16 years ago) it will be in great demand by diplomats and aid agency personnel after the former military dictator Desi Bouterse's victory in the 2010 general election there.
As presciently stated by Dew (p.114), "Desi Bouterse has more than proven himself a `great man' in the context of Suriname's history", demonstrating remarkable survival skills. Indeed. If half of what is alleged in this book about his ruthlessness and personal corruption is true, it should be astounding to outsiders that Bouterse's party (the NDP) could command over 40% of the popular vote in free and fair elections within two decades after the restoration of democracy.
Quite apart from Bouterse's personal charisma and the ideological attraction that the NDP holds for radical intellectuals and the underclass, some credit for this turn of events must go to the previous governments of Suriname. Saddled with the responsibility of pulling the country back out of the abyss into which it had been dragged by the military dictatorship, as documented in this book, successive governments have been forced by profligate spending into currency reform, unable to revive the economy and slow to implement public sector reform, with the result that Suriname has been unable to absorb much of the international aid and assistance promised to it.
Hopefully, Dew is still observing and documenting events in Suriname and will produce another book analysing the political history of Suriname during the period 1993-2010, explaining the apparent miracle of Bouterse's resurrection to the outside world.


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Family Treasure, January 4, 2010
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Growing up in Barbados I was told that my father, born in 1923, was named after one of my grandmother's relatives, Stanton King, who was one of the last of his father's twenty-nine children by three wives, had become a seaman and written a book about his life at sea, eventually becoming a man of substance, who used to visit Barbados when my father was a child, until he got married in America late in life. In my father's photograph album there is a formal sepia-colored portrait of Stanton King and in my grandmother's album there is an informal picture of him with a parrot sitting on his shoulder. I discovered fortuitously that Stanton King's auto-biographical book, Dog-Watches At Sea, originally published in 1901, has recently been republished. Although the book is generally concerned with the years that the author spent at sea after leaving home in 1880, before the age of thirteen, it does offer some vignettes into life in Barbados during the late nineteenth century. Seemingly intended as a story of the author's redemption from life as a wastrel, this highly readable book provides great insight into the dangers and hardships of life of a seaman in the age of sail. It also reveals the significant part played by Barbadians as mariners in the 1800s and the existence of a brotherhood (which today would be called a network) between seafarers from places as far apart as Barbados and Bermuda at that time.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 10, 2010 12:58 PM PDT


Corentyne Thunder (Caribbean Modern Classics)
Corentyne Thunder (Caribbean Modern Classics)
by Edgar Mittelhölzer
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.95
37 used & new from $5.93

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An amazing first novel resurected, January 4, 2010
With the exception of "My Bones and My Flute" republished by Longman's in 1986 and reprinted several times since then (evidently for use as a high school textbook), Edgar Mittelholzer's work has been out of print for so long as to have become unknown to generations of Caribbean readers. Hence, Peepal Tree Press must be commended for its decision to republish several of his books (and several other Caribbean classics) in 2009-2010. When one considers that, when this novel was written in 1938, there was virtually no precedent for it because a West Indian literature as such did not yet exist, it's an amazing accomplishment. I read somewhere that Mittelholzer once worked in a meterological office. This may explain his sentivity to weather conditions (the colours of the sky, sunlight, cloud formations, wind conditions, thunder, lightning, rain, etc) which permeates the text and in the context of which the title is well chosen. One could wish that he had devoted a comparable effort to describing the landscape, since the references in the book to canals, trenches, dams, parapets, kokers (sluicegates) and the coastal corida (mangrove) vegetation, may not conjure up an equally true picture of the Corentyne coastlands to anyone who is unfamiliar with the hydraulically engineered character of the Guyanese coast. Nevertheless, one of the most striking things about this book is (with the exception of references to the railway) how accurate the author's depiction of the area still is today, over 70 years later. Moreover (with the exception of the allusions to security of persons and property) the human story at the core of the book is not totally anachronistic. With the exception of the absence today of the white and near-white plantocracy, Mittelholzer's descriptions of the society and personalities in Berbice is evocative of the present situation. In my opinion, the main flaw in the book is the stlited dialogue between members of the elite, the landowner and his Queen's College educated son and his school friend, who are all made to speak like Victorian Englishmen. Evidently, growing up in New Amsterdam, the young Mittelholzer did not mix in such circles. Nevertheless, this book is a good and gripping read.


The Riverbones: Stumbling After Eden in the Jungles of Suriname
The Riverbones: Stumbling After Eden in the Jungles of Suriname
by Andrew Westoll
Edition: Paperback
27 used & new from $3.36

17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Rumours, June 28, 2009
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This book is recognizably one of a genre - the author has evidently taken his pattern from the books of famous `travel' writers including Paul Theroux and Bruce Chatwin, whose works he mentions in passing. That being said, it is a good read - certainly the best in English about Suriname - which touches on most of the key social and economic issues in the country today. Apart from a few minor inaccuracies - such as stating that `bami kip' (a Javanese dish) is the Hindustani staple (which is `roti kip') and that the red material of which the unpaved laterite roads are made is bauxite (a whitish substance) - the book has two main faults. First, it suffers from the notion that by `roughing it' one can get a much more authentic picture of a country than the usual tourist. This book disproves the assumption that a view of a society from the bottom up is any less skewed than a view from the top down. Despite mentioning one of them (Annette) by name, the author doesn't seem to have met any of the well educated, highly competent, multi-racial Surinamese professionals working for the Government and NGOs. In fact, apart from the Maroons and Amerindians with whom he spent time in the jungle, he seems to have socialized mainly with white outsiders - Peace Corps volunteers, Dutch investors and students. From the North American perspective, one of the great things about Suriname is that (at least in Paramaribo where the vast majority of the population lives) virtually everyone - even a vagrant I encountered - is fluent in English. You wouldn't think so from this book. Secondly, although this is not a frivolous book - the author goes well beyond Rumours (a hotel bar in Paramaribo), travelling off the beat track in Suriname, and is familiar with a lot of literature about the country, including the books of Steadman, Walsh and Price - the author insists on sharing with the reader all his human frailties, recounting every time he gets drunk, uses dope or goes to a brothel. Evidently, he is the type of Canadian who, having been rigorously sheltered from alcohol consumption during youth, cannot have a drink without ending up drunk. Perhaps this is done to lend authenticity to the narrative; but, while his personal angst is understandably important to him, it adds nothing of interest to the book from the reader's viewpoint.


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