The Caribbean crises of the Cold War are revealed as never before in this riveting story of clashing ideologies, the rise of the politics of fear, the machinations of superpowers, and the brazen daring of the mavericks who took them on.
During the presidencies of Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson, the Caribbean was in crisis. The men responsible included, from Cuba, the charismatic Fidel Castro and his mysterious brother Ral; from Argentina, the ideologue Che Guevara; from the Dominican Republic, the capricious psychopath Rafael Trujillo; and from Haiti, Franois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, a buttoned-down doctor with interests in Vodou, embezzlement, and torture.
Alex von Tunzelmann's brilliant narrative follows these five rivals and accomplices from the beginning of the Cold War to its end, each with a separate vision for his tropical paradise, and each in search of power and adventure as the United States and the USSR acted out the world's tensions in their island nations. The superpowers thought they could use Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic as puppets, but what neither bargained on was that their puppets would come to life. Red Heat is an intimate account of the strong-willed men who, armed with little but words and ruthlessness, took on the most powerful nations on earth.
©2011 Alex Von Tunzelmann (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"[A] mesmerizing, Conradian tale where the truth is almost too dark to bear. A remarkably gripping popular history." (Kirkus)
"Von Tunzelmann's diligent work will widen the eyes of cold war buffs." (Booklist)
The British female narrator is a pleasure to listen to and the story is one of which I was almost completely ignorant of before I listened to this. Highly recommended.
"Interesting, not extraordinary."
If the author would lose the anti American rant in the preface, I would have liked it more. I don't like being bludgeoned with a political position when I read history ... I would prefer the material enable me to draw the conclusions myself. Be that as it may, after you get past the introduction, the book is actually a pretty good history of American and European incursions and injustices in the Caribbean. Invading virtually defenseless island nations for a wide variety of reasons is apparently something of a tradition and has been for a long time.
This was an area of history with which I was only tangentially familiar. It enabled me, for the first time, to put our Cuban and other Caribbean adventures into a broader context.
The book is pretty good and the narrator is okay. I personally didn't like this narrator for this material. Her voice was too high for my comfort and I found her extremely clipped accent difficult to listen to for any long period. The pace was too brisk for my taste and I think, for the subject matter.
It's a reasonably well written book ... but as history it felt out of balance: too much opinion in proportion to the information. If you are interested in this region and its history and perhaps have always wondered what beef we have with Cuba and vice versa, this will probably give you the background information you want.
"Fascinating history, badly narrated"
If you are interested in recent history of Latin America and the US, you'll probably enjoy this well researched book on Cold War conflict between the US, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. The author's case that it's necessary to look at all these countries together is quite convincing and novel (for me, anyway). She provides fascinating detail and insight into the principal players, from Toussaint l'Ouverture all the way down to Fidel Castro and including the Kennedys and the sinister Papa Doc. She also makes the important point that knee-jerk anti-Communism in the US provoked irrational reactions to nationalist (non-Communist) movements in the Caribbean, setting the stage for military dictatorships in the region. Experts as well as the general public will, I think, enjoy this book. However, a major drawback is Sarah Coome's narration. I generally like the English accent, but she overdoes the pauses and lilts. Her horrendous pronunciation of names in Spanish and French turned me off completely. I don't expect a narrator of Latin American history to speak French or Spanish well, but I do expect her to get advice on not mispronouncing hames in these languages in the egregious manner of Sarah Coomes.
"Communists with halos, Americans with horns"
If you like your history with a strong, left-wing, anti-American chaser, this is the book for you. I can tolerate historians with a notable bias, especially if the historical facts seem to be well-researched. And this book indeed appears, at least in the 45 minutes I listened to it, to have the chronology and players fleshed out pretty well. But von Tunzelmann relentlessly beats the Americans-and-other-white-Europeans-are racist-greedy-opportunists-who-exploit-and-kill-minorities-for-the-sheer-fun-of-it drum. It is a red flag (pun intended) when characters like young communist Fidel Castro are portrayed, without a hint of irony, as "freedom-fighters" against barbaric dictators. This is a sure sign you have nose-dived from biased history into outright propaganda. And it is when I pull the rip cord.
It is too bad, because as a history junkie, the subject is unusual and intriguing and I was really looking forward to it.
"Well-Done But Hard to Take"
It took me a while to get through this book. It is a sorry story of American involvement in the Caribbean. Yet, it is well done, and it appears to be accurate. I wish our current politicians understood this.
"Epic, sweeping & meticulously researched saga"
Epic, sweeping & meticulously researched saga of the tumultuous 20th century history of the Caribbean islands. Alex puts in lot of hard work in writing the history for her readers. And it shows. Also I love the fact that she is able to bring out the human nature of the historical figures, instead of just making them dry caricatures. We are all human and sometimes it best to understand history within the context of the frailties and pitfalls of human nature. The sequence describing the tantrum thrown by Papa Doc when his daughter went off with her disgraced husband is an excellent example of this type of historical narrative.
My only grudge is that this is really 3 books combined in one - History of Cuba, that of Haiti & of the Dominican Republic. Although intertwined, each would have made a compelling narrative on its own. I felt towards the end not enough justice was done to telling the story of Castro & to some extent Che. At one point I got on Netflix and watched a documentary on Castro which gave me lot more information.
That doesn't take away at all from the compelling nature of this book. It should be required reading for any student of Caribbean history. And a pleasurable, informative and fascinating read for any history buff.
The audible narrative is also pleasant and the reader captures the spirit of the book well, along with her emphasis on French pronunciations which makes it even more interesting.
Thanks Alex for another wonderful historical read (following Indian summer)
"Enjoyable, Well Resarched History of the Caribbean"
Von Tunzelman's has written a colorful history of Hati, Dominican Republic, and Cuba during the cold war. If you're interested in the history of Caribbean politics, and the U.S role, then this will serve as an interesting primer. She provides many details that would make a fascinating novel, that are even more compelling because they are true.
The author's premise that the U.S.'s paranoia of Communism, and it's reluctant support of dictators who used the issue to garner U.S. support, while they oppressed their people, is well founded.
Although, Von Tunzelmann covers Castro's rise comprehensively, she neglects to write about his many years of dictatorship of the island. Absent are reports of the thousands of political prisoners rotting away in Castro's prisons. This absence undermines her argument. Obviously, the thousands of people who escaped during the Mariel Harbor boat lift are proof that the Castro rule is not as benign as she would like us to believe. In spite of this, her argument that Castro could have been persuaded to have friendly relations with the U.S. before the relationship soured, has validity.
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