Wednesday, July 23, 2008


1858 was one of the last stable years before the Civil War. Bruce Chadwick covers the major political and personal decisions of some of the major figures in American political life, hence the subtitle 'Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis,Robert E.Lee, Ulysses S.Grant and the War They Failed To See.'

A fair fraction of the book is taken up with James Buchanan's career - possibly the most incompetent President. He managed to weaken the Democrats by inserting himself into the battle for an Illinois Senate seat with the incumbent Douglas fighting Buchanan's animosity and Abe Lincoln.

Jefferson Davis survived a life threatening illness and spent the year recuperating in the North. Surprisingly he became more friendly and understanding of the North's position and looked like he could compromise but his southerness reasserted itself and 'the rest is history'. This book is a prequel to the Civil War if you like.

The Age of Shiva Manil Suri
Manil Suri's long awaited second book is a very personal story of a woman's life and relationship with her son. She miscalculates an infatuation with her sister's boyfriend which is then compounded by the impulses of the young man. They are caught in flagrante and society forces this marriage between social unequals. Mura has one son and a loveless marriage to a disillusioned drunkard. Suri describes her slow dissolution into an erotic, dependent love of her son. The Age of Shiva is distinctly different from his more spiritual Death of Vishnu. Vishnu dealt with life in an apartment block. Shiva is focused on one relationship. Suri's writing is always worth reading.

Gerhardt Meurer

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