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Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Great War- Hero of Many Countries

My mother worked for the U.S. Air Force in Australia during the Second World War, so I was very interested in reading Macarthur by Mitchell Yockelson.  She used to see the General in the lift (elevator) and she told me how nice and pretty his wife was.  She's also told me hair-raising stories about typing letters begging for more planes.  Macarthur is certainly a hero to my mother and should be a hero to all Australians as well as Americans.

Yockelson's book is an excellent introduction to the life and legacy of the great general.  It outlines the importance of Macarthur's noble family background, the facts of the wars and the general's struggles with Presidents and other war-leaders.  Unfortunately, there is only a small chapter on Macarthur's time in Australia.  This was, of course, the part that interested me the most.  However, I couldn't really expect more because the book is written to appeal to American readers.

 The writing is, unfortunately, a bit dull and the book could be used as a textbook.  The extracts of Macarthur's own writings are much more lively!  However, it did make me want to read more.

The author does include many anecdotes and details about Macarthur's personal life which makes Macarthur more accessible and the book more interesting.  For example, Macarthur had a mistress at one stage.  He was also a natty dresser - during the First World War he often wore bright turtleneck sweaters, riding crops and shining puttees! He was nicknamed 'the Beau Brummell of the AEF'!

I hope to read some more biographies of the general now, and I'll certainly visit the Macarthur Museum again soon!

NB: This book was a free book provided by the Book Sneeze blogging program.  My opinion of this book is entirely my own.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

No Way Home by Carlos Acosta

The troubles of Lee Cunxin (Mao's Last Dancer) were bad, but seem like almost nothing when they are compared with those of the famous ballet star, Carlos Acosta.  This book made my hair stand on end!<br/><br/>Born in a poor area of Havana, Acosta overcame terrible conditions to become a ballet dancer.  He really wanted to be a footballer so he played truant from his first school and played football and joined breakdancing groups.  His father gave him a good thrashing when he found out.  Luckily, another school accepted him.  Once Acosta was inspired by going to the ballet, he decided to put up with his coackroach-ridden shed in a swamp, absence from his family, and long bus-rides to school. His teachers saw his potential and helped begin to achieve his ambitions.

These weren't his only problems.  His father was injured in a car accident which worsened his already bad temper.  His mother suffered a stroke at only 35 and one of his sisters was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia.  It was almost too much for anyone to cope with.  Acosta must have had supreme inner strength and determination, however.  He was also spurred on by his father who wanted to help him get ahead.

This is probably the most miserable book that I've ever read! It becomes somewhat happier when Acosta starts becoming successful.  It's interesting to see how he copes with life in the wealthy West and isolation.  He describes the contrast between Cuba and the West well. In spite of the poverty of Cuba and his father's bad temper, Acosta  longs for his family and his country, but he wants to become famous in other countries.

It's certainly an emotionally powerful story and it's well-written and easy to read.  Acosta's very honest as well.  He gives a lot of details about his love life which makes the book spicier and even more interesting.