Rating: 4.5 out of 5
This was a difficult book to read. The continuous struggles of one nation — Abyssinia — against Italy are not only an echo of the crises the rest of the world would see a few years after the Ethiopian Invasion began but also very much hearken back to an age where so much of what we take for granted now was a privilege.
It is also disheartening to read how the inaction of some — and the ill will and naivete of others — manage to cause so much injustice. In a just world, it is clear that Imperial Abyssinia would not have been invaded and that the League of Nations would have stood by the defender — instead meaningless platitudes were offered up throughout. In this entire spectacle, Foreign Minister Anthony Eden is one of the few who comes through relatively unscathed, representing someone who seemed to both understand as well as care, even if he was not able to achieve much with those qualities.
The war itself is brought forward in excruciating detail. The author gives a lot of space to descriptions of the Italian advance in the early years while the later ones go by in only a few chapters. The toppling of the regime also gets relatively little coverage — and indeed I think a more thorough look at this series of events would have focussed on Haile Selassie’s decisions once back in power, such as why the Patriots were not given a greater say.
The other bit which distracted me was the continuous jump to NYC and the unrest there. It is unarguably a part of these events, but I felt that it could have been tied in better. Nevertheless, it was one of those typical ironies to read how one of the people so supportive of Italy and anti-Abyssinian would end up by the side of Martin Luther King.
Overall, this is a very good summary — the only thing to keep in mind is that the world is not just. One crisis spawns another, and, like a snowball, they all gather momentum…