Represent: All The Kings Men- Robert Penn Warren
Late last night I finally finished this book and all I felt was an utter sense of relief. After 2 months of essentially forcing myself to trudge through the pages at a snails pace, I was glad it was all over. I must admit, this is the first book I’ve ever read about politics, let alone American politics, which is a whole ‘nother two headed dragon!
Set in the 1930’s, the story follows the career of Willie Stark as he pursues his goal to become state governor. From his humble beginnings in rural Louisiana as a lawyer representing the poor, he mutates into a powerful political figure who over time, adopts corrupt methods to achieve his objectives. The story is related by Jack Burden, Willie Stark’s personal aide. The two characters develop together through Stark’s political journey, their stories and the people they know are intertwined all the way to the end.
The tale is said to be loosely based on Huey ‘The Kingfish’ Long, a blunt democrat who governed between 1928 to 1932 during the Great Depression. He condemned the banks and the elite, rallying for higher taxes to be put upon the large corporations and the wealthy to provide funds for his public works projects. The literacy rate was the lowest in the nation with only 25% of the population being literate. Long provided free schoolbooks for children, expanded the school bus system & established adult learning programs. At the end of his time in office, 100,000 adults had learnt to read. He built bridges, lowered tolls, paved roads, set up charity hospitals and built university buildings. He comes across as a modern day Robin Hood, however his methods of blackmail and intimidation were highly questionable, he was also accused of becoming a dictator. Despite this, Long has left behind a lasting legacy, his time as governor came to end when he was assassinated in 1935 by a physician named Weiss.
When you type ‘the 10 most corrupt states in the USA’ into google, there’s a recurring theme of who appears in the articles and who makes it onto the lists. They might not be in the same order or have been measured in the same way, but they’re there alright. Alabama, New Jersey, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, Virginia. Now I know that sounds like most of the United States, however; Colorado, Vermont, Iowa, Washington, Hawai’i, Nebraska and Oregon all came up pretty green. My theory is that most of them have mountains, legalized weed or in Vermont’s case, the ultimate creation for incorruptibility- Ben and Jerry’s.
Most Read: The Scent of Lemon Leaves- Clara Sanchez/Julie Wavk
This was another book my local library didn’t keep on the shelves, seeing ‘no results found’ pop up on my screen is always a surprise. The description of the story line really caught my interest and I was genuinely excited to begin reading, especially after the dreary politics of the last one. Julian, a Holocaust survivor and a retired Nazi hunter, receives a letter from his friend Salva providing new information on the possible whereabouts of two ‘wanted’ Nazis in Spain. During his investigations, his path crosses with that of Sandra, a young pregnant women who has come to the coastal town to consider her options regarding the father of her baby. She unknowingly befriends the Nazi Norwegian couple at the beach and ends up spending more and more time with them. Julian realises that there isn’t just two Nazis hiding out in the small town but a whole network of them, he and Sandra end up working together to gather evidence to expose them to the world.
That all sounds pretty interesting and exciting but the writing was dull to say the least. The book was originally written in Spanish and won many awards. I wondered whether during the translation some of the magic of the story had been lost but having found many poor reviews by Spanish speakers, I guess it’s just the novel itself. Julian spends a lot of time giving details about what he keeps in his hire car, Sandra decides within hours that the Norwegian couple could be her surrogate grandparents and there’s even a weird love story thrown into the mix for good measure. Then to top of the events of the book, in the end Sandra just goes home to be with her parents and Julian ends up in an old people’s home with some of the Nazis.
The truly intriguing part of the book was the very last page. “Most of the old Nazis that appear in this novel are based on real people, who after the WWII, found refuge under the warm, serene sky of our coasts, where they managed to live to a ripe age without anyone bothering them.” After some searching I found nothing about Spain but lots of articles about other countries assisting the Nazis. By the sound of it, everyone was guilty- according to the web anyway. Whole communities lived in the mountains of Argentina in exchange for jewels stolen from Jews, the USA not only knowingly let them in but also used them as spies and intelligence officers, the Red Cross helped them escape, Dutch airlines flew them to South America. Then I found this gem which did shed some light on why so many of them chose Spain as the place to disappear, it even mentions the book!