The grandson of the former UN Secretary-General U Thant, the author is in a uniquely privileged position to comment on Burma.
For many Burma watchers in the West, the situation in Burma is seen in strictly polarised terms, in which Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) are pitted against the demonical generals of the military regime, and any wider picture runs the danger of being ignored. Thant Myint-U, while clearly a believer in democracy, helps give a more historical dimension to this situation, showing that many of the problems faced by Burma today have their roots in British colonialism and the way in which the British brutally and humiliatingly deposed the Burmese monarchy, leaving a power vacuum that has never really been filled.
In fluid and eminently readable prose, his historical and very human narrative is interwoven with information on his own family, among the most famous Burma has ever produced. The final section is a reflection on the seemingly insurmountable hurdle the opposition would have to mount in order to get into power; not only an increasingly powerful military who talk at cross-purposes to democratic politics and whose support from China and India make them almost invincible, but (pre Cyclone Nargis) increased material well-being and a population the majority of whom no longer remember the events of 1988.
Although he is far from being an apologist for the military regime, he is equally dismissive of Western sanctions, making a persuasive argument that in a world where China is increasingly dominant they have little impact, and in many ways are counter-productive, as they serve to increase Burma's isolation, thus playing into the hands of the military generals.
Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Burma.