Profile for NMS Holman > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by NMS Holman
Top Reviewer Ranking: 5,858,147
Helpful Votes: 76

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
NMS Holman (London)
(REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1
pixel
The Earl of Petticoat Lane
The Earl of Petticoat Lane
by Andrew Miller
Edition: Hardcover

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Becoming 'British', 4 Jun. 2006
Henry Freedman made an extraordinary journey from East End barrow boy, born of Jewish parents, into the heart of London society. It is a wonderful story, lovingly and skilfully chronciled by his grandson, Andrew Miller. But this book is far more than homage to a remarkable, gutsy grandfather; and it is more than a love story which began on Petticoat Lane, when Henry, who was then 22, met the 18 year old Miriam Claret; and it is certainly more than an evocation of an East End long gone - though well worth reading for any of these features. What makes The Earl of Pettcoat Lane (which needs an index before I give it five stars)not just an entertaining account of a long-gone social world are the tough questions which the author gently and implicitly poses about contemporary immigrants who have made their homes in the East End and elsewhere in Britain. Just what does it mean to be 'British' today? What are the aspirations of immigrants from Somalia or Bangladesh or Pakistan for whom the United Kingdom is now home? Henry Freedman succeeded in becoming as 'British as the British' - but this ambition today seems as old fashioned and remote as the East End of century ago, which his grandson has brought so vividly to life.


The Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn't Working
The Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn't Working
by Robert Calderisi
Edition: Hardcover

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Asking the right questions, 3 Mar. 2006
Aid to Africa does not work. Or at least, it does not work anything like as well it has elsewhere in the world. Despite billions of dollars from donors, led by the World Bank, more Africans are poor today than ever, whether as a percentage its population or as a grim figure. Why is this? If you maintain - like Bono and Bob Geldof - that the answer to the continent's crisis is to double aid to Africa, then look out: The Trouble with Africa by Robert Calderossi will make you very cross. But do not for that reason ignore this outstanding contribution to an under-informed debate. Mr Calderossi knows what he is talking about. He has worked in the front line of the aid businesss - as one of the World Bank's all-powerful resident representatives (in Cote d'Ivoire), and as the Bank's head of public relations. And if you believe that before well-meaning observers come up with answers to Africa's crisis, they should be first asking the right questions, this seminal book, as hardhitting as it is compassionate, provides a quiverful.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 16, 2011 4:08 AM GMT


I Didn't Do It For You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation
I Didn't Do It For You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation
by Michela Wrong
Edition: Hardcover

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Africa classic from Michela Wrong, 15 Jan. 2005
Michela Wrong's first book, In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz, an account of the Congo's decline, was rightly acclaimed a classic by the Economist. She has triumphed again in her account of Eritrea, a book of many themes and as many virtues: it combines the best of travel writing, biography, history, current affairs, all embraced by a poignant love story, for Ms Wrong fell head over heels for this rugged, beautiful land. Above all, the former journalist who worked for Reuters news agency and reported on Africa for the Financial Times, has produced a fascinating psychological profile of Eritrea, the brave, belligerent and infuriating Horn of Africa state that waged a 30 year guerilla war for independence from Ethiopia. It is a case study of the harm done by colonial rule, and an indictment of the role of Italy, Britain, the US, the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, and a scathing condemnation of the conniving United Nations. But Ms Wrong never lectures us. She combines intellectual rigour with wit and sharp insight as she trawls British government files. And with wonderful flair, she describes the incongruous, such as her account of Eritea's last Italian, living out his remaining days in the Red Sea port of Massawa, spitting out his contempt for family and friends, lashing out at his ducks as he sits surrounded by rusting 'fridges. Equally entertaining is her description - "bugging, blowjobs and beer" - of the exploits of the US servicemen who eavesdropped on much of the world from their listening post at Kagnew, on the outskirts of the Eritrean capital of Asmara. But there are broader concerns that emerge as Ms Wrong sets out the lifestyles of the feckless young US servicemen. The contrast with the heroics of their Eritrean contemporaries, many of whom died in their struggle for independence from Ethiopia, could not be more striking. The Americans had neither cause nor convictions. Their Eritrean contemporaries had both, in huge doses. Alas,like many love stories, there is not a happy ending. Ms Wrong does not try to conceal her distress as she watches Eritrea's decline from inspirational model for Africa into authoritarian state. This splendid book provides a powerful rebuttal of those historians who claim that on balance colonial rule was a good thing; and it should be compulsory reading for British ministers who now urge us to "celebrate" our colonial past. As Ms Wrong warns: "Eritrea should serve as a cautionary tale ... We forget the roles we play in such far-off outposts at our peril".


In The Footsteps Of Mr Kurtz. Living On The Brink Of Disaster In The Congo
In The Footsteps Of Mr Kurtz. Living On The Brink Of Disaster In The Congo
by Michela Wrong
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A grimly entertaining account of an African kleptocrat, 9 Sept. 2000
After three decades in power, Mobutu Sese Seko, the kleptocratic president of Zaire who died in exile three years ago this month (September 1997), came to personify corruption. And his country - now called the Democratic Republic of Congo - remains synonymous with Africa's malaise. Yet as Michela Wrong shows in this vivid and engrossing account of a nation's collapse, the roots of this tragedy lie in its colonial past. "In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz", along with Adam Hochschild's masterly and compelling account of Belgium's brutal rule - "King Leopold's Ghost", (Papermac, 2000) provides an engrossing insight into why Africa failed to live up to the hopes that accompanied the start of the post-colonial era. Ms Wrong, who began her reporting career with Reuters, served as the international news agency's correspondent in Zaire for a year before joining the Financial Times as the paper's Africa correspondent, covering the collapse and flight of Mobutu. But for all her acerbic comments about the role of the United States and its poodles at the time - the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, both ever obliging in providing the loans that helped buy Mobutu's loyalty during the Cold War - Ms Wrong has not written a handwringing account of the evils of the West. Nor is she ever patronising about the continent, or sanctimonious about its shortcomings. Instead she has written a balanced and sharply observant portrait of a society and a system in which a host a characters demonstrate an indominatable capacity to survive. The book is studded with deft, often grimly amusing accounts of this daily battle, at almost every level of humanity apart from Mobutu himself and the country's elite, known as the Grandes Legumes (Big Vegetables). Enterprising cripples turn their status as social outcasts to their advantage, operating as malodorous smugglers on the river ferry between Kinshasa and Brazzaville whom customs officers shrink from searching; valiant, hardpressed and hardheaded staff at Kinshasa's desperately under-funded hospital imprison patients - and hold on to their cadavers if they die - as security against unpaid medical bills; and then there are the "sapeurs", the followers of high fashion, who scorn authority and assert their individuality, strutting across makeshift stages to the rhythm of some of Africa's greatest musicians. It is the charismatic and complex Mobutu, however, who dominates and ruins their lives. His search for what he called African "authenticity" was driven by an instinctive understanding of the need to repair the psychological damage done to the continent by successive traumas - the slave trade, the carve up of Africa at the Berlin Conference, and the impact of the colonial era. Instinct was not enough. He invited ridicule with the imposition of an absurd dress code - suits were abolished and replaced by a collarless ersatz outfit, while Citizen and Citoyenne became the required form of address under a spurious egalitarian regime. But it was Mobutu's nationalisation of the economy in the mid-1970s that became a catastrophe from which the country never recovered. For me, the abiding image of Mobutu is not the conventional one: the dark-glassed dictator with his leopard-skin hat, ornately carved walking stick, chartered Concordes, chateaux in France and bank accounts in Switzerland - drained by the cost of running a system based on presidential patronage. Instead the image that prevails is that of an ageing and isolated figure, wracked by cancer, marooned in his extravagant palace in his home vilage of Gbadolite. It was here that he sought solace, brooding over his failure, living in a monument to bad taste. He furnished the palace with the kitsch of Europe, banishing the culture of the Africa he once proclaimed and e championed. Mobutu ended his 32 years in power behind a facade as phoney as his elaborate cravats, which as Ms Wrong reveals, were prefolded concoctions with Velcro attachments. Today Gbadolite is occupied by rebel soldiers, attempting to overthrow his successor, Laurent Kabila, a political pygmy following in the footsteps of a deeply flawed giant. But it nevertheless still stands as a symbol of Mobutu Sese Seko's devasating diservice to Africa...


Page: 1