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Viva South America!: A Journey Through a Restless Continent Paperback – 19 Mar 2009


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Viva South America!: A Journey Through a Restless Continent + Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent + The Penguin History Of Latin America: New Edition
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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (19 Mar 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571237037
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571237036
  • Product Dimensions: 2.9 x 15.2 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 575,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Law on 14 April 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Oliver Batch visits some remoter parts of South America as well as the big cities. He has quite a knack for picking up on the injustice and aggrievements of minority groups, and tells it like it is. The reason I rated as 4 star not 5, was despite it being well researched and well written, amusing at times,sad at times, a slightly predictable formula creeps in, consequently my interest drifted towards the end. Maybe his journalistic style. But a worthwhile read for anyone who is interested in South America today.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 25 Aug 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been to south america many times, as it is my prefered continent. Once for 6 months travelling nearly all countries, but since then several times back to some of those.

I think the writing style and the background stories are very good. It did not reveal that many new things to me, but it named impressions I had, and made me think a lot. I read through this book in only 2 days, and enjoyed it very well.

Make no mistake - this is not a typical travel book. Although light, it does not cover the writer's journey to the highlights of the continent. It depicts the backgrounds of the nations and the people. I do not agree with everything he writes, but that is a minor detail. I think it is pretty accurate. For each theme the author focusses on a different country, but the reader should realise many of the themes also play an important role in the other countries.

There are a few pasages in chapters that are less interesting, but on the whole, this deserves a 5 star. I have read several other books on south america, and it is one of the best !
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan on 24 May 2009
Format: Paperback
The author has written this moderately-sized book extremely well; my interest was held from page to page as he recounts not just his travels in South America, but the greater emphasis on the lives of those whom he encountered on his trip - the book, unlike much travel writing, isn't all about "his trip", but rather is about all the stories and lives of the locals and their places in the social, economic and political landscapes of their individual countries and the broader Latin America.

It's not heavy reading at all - I enjoyed it on a flight and by a pool - but it has a good depth to its content which comes through very well.

One of the best books I've read for a while.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Roger Carswell on 11 April 2009
Format: Paperback
I've never been to South America, but this realistic journey through the continent gave me the desire to go. Every aspect of South American life is surveyed, but uniquely, with the aid of those who would normally be ignored by travel writers. I felt I knew something about each country, that maybe I shouldn't know! Every sentence of the book seemed crafted, like a work of art, and every chapter was like a different book with new tales to tell and new insights to stir my interest and imagination. The surprise element of the book never diminished. It is a great book, a real page-turner; I hope we get more from Oliver Balch.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Irving on 15 Aug 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a must read for anyone planning a long trip to South America. Balch gets away from the major tourist destinations and gives a compelling portrayal of the good and bad points of contemporary South America. With a chapter on each of the main countries, he focuses on the kind of stories that are rarely told elsewhere. Recommended!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By F Henwood TOP 500 REVIEWER on 31 May 2014
Format: Paperback
What do you know about Simon Bolivar? He has two Latin American countries named in his honour. By the time he was 40, he had liberated six countries from Spanish colonial rule, occupied three presidential posts and led an army, fighting 300 battles and skirmishes along the way. We learn this information toward the conclusion of the book, as Oliver Balch retraces Bolivar’s footsteps to assess the contemporary relevance of Bolivar’s example to today’s Latin America.

As a travelogue the book is very good. . Balch writes about domestic violence victims in Chile and the culture of machismo, evangelical movements in Peru, grassroots campaigners in Argentina, prisoners in Paraguay and the internally displaced refugees in Colombia. There are some very talented politically minded travel writers around nowadays, like Tim Butcher, Oliver Bullough and Andrew Meier. Balch is up there in their league – very evocative writers, summoning up the sense of people and places vividly, physically brave and prepared to suffer considerable discomfort and sometimes danger to inform those reading from the comfort of their armchairs (like me) what life is like at the sharp end for the people living in the lands about which they write

You are left wondering what Bolivar would have made of all this, were he to rise from his grave. Bolivar, despite his staggering achievements, died a disillusioned man. He reportedly said, near the end of his life, that the Americas were ungovernable. To what extent are the current problems created by the machinations of outsiders? To what extent are they expressions of home-grown dysfunctions? And what does the raw data say about wider socio-economic trends in the region? What have been the successes and failures of the so-called ‘pink tide’ governments?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By MrsBoots on 28 Dec 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book hoping it would inspire and enthuse me about an upcoming trip to South America. I found the book too serious and not very entertaining. It is more report than travel story. The snapshots of characters seems more on the side of superficial rather than exploring them in any depth, and I still feel as though it doesn't give me a good feel for the people of South America. Admittedly I gave up reading it after a few chapters. I will try picking it up again, but a book that deserves five stars should not ever tempt you to put it down. Perhaps when I have explored the continent, I will come back to the book with greater enthusiasm.
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