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A Wicked War presents the definitive history of the 1846 war between the United States and Mexico - a conflict that turned America into a continental power. Amy Greenberg describes the battles between American and Mexican armies, but also delineates the political battles between Democrats and Whigs - the former led by the ruthless Polk, the latter by the charismatic Henry Clay and a young representative from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln. Greenberg brilliantly recounts this key chapter in the creation of the United States with authority and narrative flair.
Greenberg has written a lively political history of the Mexican war and the substantial but disorganized opposition to it. Key players include Henry Clay, James K. Polk, Nicholas Trist, and Abraham Lincoln: all deftly characterized with a few well-chosen anecdotes. The military history is covered in broad strokes - for more detail on that, a better choice would be Martin Dugard's Training Ground. But if you want a clear and vivid picture of the machinations that led to the war and to its ultimate conclusion, this is the book for you.
There are obvious parallels with more recent wars, some of them opposed by many in the US, but Greenberg doesn't hit us over the head with that. Apart from a few somewhat anachronistic references to "embedded journalists," she leaves us to our own conclusions. This is political history, not politicized history.
Caroline Shaffer's narration is equally lively. At first it seemed discordantly "peppy" to me, but as I got used to her style of delivery, I realized her unflagging energy was keeping me drawn to the story. All in all, I really enjoyed it.
16 of 17 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up A Wicked War in three words, what would they be?
Enlightening historical drama
What did you like best about this story?
Unique perspectives from well known figures in our country's history
Any additional comments?
The only thing I was not a huge fan of was how the narrator spoke with a "mexican" accent when quoting mexicans. It seemed to imbue character to a quotation that may have been taken out of context.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
First of all, look at my name, it’s Jose. I am not a historian but I do know some Latin American history. The author of this book does not know a thing about Mexico, Latin-American culture, and the Spanish Empire. I think she is an expert in PC topics like gender studies and race baiting. Lesson #1 for Non-Latins, we Latins are not victims. The Mexican-American War was the culmination of a Tiger vs. Tiger struggle for supremacy in North America. The Mexicans and Spanish before them chose not to adopt free-market capitalism and trade as the economic system, the USA did and they whipped us. The better ideas won, that’s cool. This book has so much fake content that I don't know what can be trusted.
Basically, the author hates America, this book would not have been written differently if the KGB were asked to describe “Manifest Destiny” and “American Exceptionalism”. At the detail level, what Polk did is not different than Bismark taking pieces of Denmark, Austria, and France; Peter the Great taking Finland; Catherine the Great taking Crimea; and Suleiman taking Constantinople. With few exceptions, these events were true blood baths. The battle of Buena Vista is not even a skirmish when viewed on the scale of Constantinople.
Another thing, the author's obsession with slavery is weird. Until the industrial revolution was brought to us by the English and Americans, slavery, feudalism, and serfdom was a part of human life-since day-1. Never before had slavery been unknown. Do we need to re-write history to include that Julius Cesar, Alexander, Peter the Great, Louis XV had a slave/serf body servants? How about the Soviet Gulags and Chinese labor Camps full of unpaid labor, can we re-title Stalin as a slave owner and Mao as an enslaver?
Facts that make the book fake:
(1) The Spanish had a Manifest Destiny slogan too, “The World is Not Enough” and “Further Beyond”, then they ran out of money to fight the world after the 30-Years War.
(2) How did Mexico get so big pre-1840? The answer, the territory was just loose claims from Spanish “New Spain” and they conquered every Indian tribe that had some wealth or choice farm land.
(3) The Texans were allowed entry by Spain not Mexico in the late 1790’s
(4) The Texans were allowed entry to fight Apaches and Comanches because Mexican territory south of the Rio Grande was being raided by the Comanches
(5) The Mexican leaders had their own form of slavery, called encomienda and they got peasant labor through feudal right
(6) The Mexican leaders then and today are largely Mediterranean whites, not the brown skin dudes that cut lawns in the USA
(7) Mexico fought Spain for Independence? Nope, it was a civil war of elites because Spain did not survive the Napoleonic War in Europe as an Empire
(8) Mexico was not and is not a Republic; it was actually founded as the Empire of Mexico under the Emperor Inturbide
(9) The Empire “fell” due to more Civil War and they eventually settled under a war lord named Santana during the Texas independence conflict, then had more Civil War afterwards
(10) What were the Mexican Civil Wars about? Other than to see who is president, nobody truly knows. Nominally, you had liberal elites that favored laws and systems like Revolutionary France and you had conservative elites that favored laws and systems like Imperial Spain. The non-elites caught in the middle were basically the victim of a failed economics was always Statist.
(11) The “Southwest” of 1800 was basically an amorphous relationship of French control of Mississippi River Ports, USA farmers and frontiersmen attempting commerce, Native American tribes, and Spanish claims.
(12) Travel between Natchez and Nashville was extremely dangerous and treacherous. The French control of St Louis did not exceed far beyond the city center. The Comanches were basically the Tartar raiders of central North America.
(13) The Comanches kept Spanish soldiers huddled in the mission courtyard of the Alamo. Spain and later Mexico exercised Zero Control of Texas relative the Native Americans and the Americans they imported. The only permanent residents in the land were the Native Americans
(14) The British did have an economic interest in the Southwest. If they wanted the USA out of Texas or California, they would have financed Mexico and given Naval support to stop the US. At the end of the day, they rather do business with the USA, who was and is a more reliable fiscal nation than Mexico
(15) Texas cotton was for Export! To the British and USA.
(16) If you think Mexicans consider themselves to be Indians or esteem the Indians, please find a wealthy Mexican and call him an Indian and see what happens.
(17) In Mexico, the wealthy consider themselves to be Europeans not Native American
(18) Santana had a massive plantation, the author thinks he paid for the labor on his plantation
The narrator is good when talking in English. She should not attempt Southern or Mexican accents, it sound extremely bad.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
Where does A Wicked War rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
Great book about undiscussed history of the Mexican-American War. Unfortunately the narrator distracts from the story. She over-acts and attempts to speak with voices and accents that seem tortured.
9 of 13 people found this review helpful
Would you try another book from Amy S. Greenberg and/or Caroline Shaffer?
nothing narrated by Caroline Shaffer her style is terrible
Who was your favorite character and why?
Really did not have a favorite character. Santana was a poor leader.
How did the narrator detract from the book?
voice, tone, theatrical attempts poor. The narration detracted from the enjoyment so much that I quit before the end and read the book.
Did A Wicked War inspire you to do anything?
read the book rather than listen to that woman
3 of 5 people found this review helpful
I enjoyed this book, but in some ways it's focus on such a large number of historical figures hurts it rather than helps it. The clear idea behind it is to give many accounts and through that to lend perspective to the war that was and is so controversial. Yet in many cases it felt the narrative pace was like an old car, sputtering and then lurching forward more than you would like.
My other small gripe is that there is a clear authorial bias to the choices in the narrative structure. What I mean by that is the book lingers on the negative aspects of a situation when it's a person the author is clearly trying to dress down, and brushes past similar negative aspects when it's a figure the author wishes to place in high regard in the reader's mind.
These aspects aside, the book is interesting, the story it tells is significant, and the performance is great. I haven't heard Shaffer before but she has a strong voice and a great pacing to her dialogue, I'll definitely be looking for more from her.
Would you try another book from Amy S. Greenberg and/or Caroline Shaffer?
From Amy S. Greenberg yes. From Caroline Shaffer no way ever.
What other book might you compare A Wicked War to and why?
Battle Cry of Freedom but not as detailed. It's a good narrative of the Mexican war which is all but forgotten in history.
How could the performance have been better?
Different Narrator. This lady is by far the worst narrator I've listen to in the few years of my membership. Her terrible fake overdone attempt at portraying a Southern accent pierced my spine and I found it rather demeaning to those of Southern heritage. She stands firmly in the way of the message from an informative work. If Ms. Shaffer wishes to be an audio actress then she should do audio drama not narrative reading.
What character would you cut from A Wicked War?
It's a historical perspective I would cut no one.
Any additional comments?
I can't overemphasise what a terrible job Ms. Shaffer did on this narration. Read the book and nix the audio acting. She damaged an otherwise good book.
The story itself is fantastic. A lot of the other reviewer's had something to say about readers' accents. They are distracting, however this story is compelling nonetheless.
Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?
I was very motivated to learn about the topic. Otherwise, I could never have made it through the narration.
Would you recommend A Wicked War to your friends? Why or why not?
The story yes. Not the listen.
Would you be willing to try another one of Caroline Shaffer’s performances?
Maybe. It is hard to blame this reader for what seems to be unfortunate editorial decisions, i.e. to have her change voice, accent and volume everytime a different character speaks or, more annoyingly, every time she reads a quote from an original source. What may have been a fairly good story was rendered overly academic and pretentious.
If this book were a movie would you go see it?
In better hands, a very compelling story. Just do not let this author do the screenplay.
Any additional comments?
Please, please do not rob readers of the chance to experience a good historical story. This is WAAAY too cluttered up with original sources and a very jarring, annoying performance. Just READ the story. Let it speak for itself.
This a special combination of amazing historical narrative with the perfect choice of narrator.
Once again I am outraged at my public miseducation as a child. We lionized a few presidents. I was an adult before I truly discovered Andrew Jackson. I never really bothered with the uninteresting Polk and after Greenberg's work it's clear why. His record hardly supports the jingoism of the fairly tales of childhood pedagogy.
3 of 7 people found this review helpful