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I'd be more likely to recommend it than to finish it
on 12 November 2013
2 1/2 stars.
I'm posting this on the slight chance that someone else with high expectations of Mirrors might be disappointed for the same reason that I was. . .
Galeano's approach, that of showing views--sometimes broad, sometimes narrowly focussed--of history in short titled segments in roughly chronological order is a good one, and it's in nearly every way a highly readable book. (His style isn't the lyrical one I'd half-expected--where others found prose poems I found serviceable prose.) It's likelier than not that anyone reading it will find something new to them, though possibly not a great deal: It would be an ideal book for someone who, as we say here, hasn't got a lot of history on him, especially if what knowledge of it he does have is limited to American and European history.
But the author's heavy-handedness made me leave off reading 100 pages in, though my 'heavy-handedness' might very well be your 'making things perfectly clear' or even 'passion'. Fairly soon in I began to feel annoyed by Galeano's tendency to make a point over and over again. I think the problem is not simply that within each sketch he can seem to belabour a point but that he groups sketches with a common theme together, which means there's no relief from his message. Yes, of course women, Muslims, non-Europeans, Jews, the poor and many more have been subjected to absolutely hideous and enragingly unjust treatment over the centuries and it's right that we should be reminded of this. If we're reminded many many times, though, and always in the same way the content of the reminder is weakened and, at least for me, the initial impact fades into irritation.
It was when the lack of subtlety in structure and presentation extended to the style that I finally decided to read no more, when I came upon this: 'Those [Muslim] sneaks still wear turbans to hide their horns, and long tunics to cover their tails and bat's wings . . . ' and then on the following page 'What do you mean Jesus was Jewish? And the twelve apostles and four evangelists too? Impossible'. Do you see why I find this heavy-handed? If you do, you've been warned; if you don't, by all means go for this book. In either case, you won't be disappointed.