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Friday, July 30, 2010

The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898 by Evan Thomas

Well done

Before this book, I had not had the pleasure of reading one of Evan Thomas' books. I picked this one up despite the fawning comments by Thomas in June 2009 ("I mean in a way Obama's standing above the country, above - above the world, he's sort of God.") My original thoughts were if this guy can't be any more unbiased in his observations than that, do I really want to read his stab at history?

Well, I am happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised. This is a solid history that is told well. The book flows along nicely and the reader is both entertained and informed.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) with his men in Cuba
The book's focus is the build-up of public support for the Spanish-American War (1898). As the title notes, Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge and William Randolph Hearst are the main subjects in the book but other people round out the story, including Harvard professor and philosopher William James (Pragmatism and Other Writings ), his brother and fellow author Henry James (Henry James: Complete Stories, 1892-1898), Speaker of the House Thomas Brackett Read, various surviving family members of deceased Civil War hero Robert Gould Shaw (Glory ) and great-grandson and grandson of presidents, Henry Adams (The Education of Henry Adams).

The War Lovers gives the reader a vivid portrait of life among the Eastern Elite in the late 19th century - a world so far removed from my experience that I may have well as been reading about a foreign country. But, in a way, the book was full of plenty of people that I have been reading about all of my life. Thomas takes those empty names and fleshes them out with personality, histories and makes them become much more real. On top of that, it is an entertaining read!

Highly recommended.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5 stars.

Reviewed on March 18, 2010.

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