JimenaPulse

About Jimena de la Frontera, the province of Cadiz and Spain as a whole, focused on this small village in the mountains

BOOK REVIEW by William Beatty

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William Beatty once lived in Jimena, which he visits regularly with his wife.

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September 2009

“Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Published by Penguin.

Three Cups of Tea

Since 2006 this book has sold millions, never been remaindered and still has no lack of takers. The Washington Post termed it “excellent” and “unassailable”. This factual account of one ordinary man’s quite extraordinary achievement proves truth to be stranger than fiction. Mortenson, ex-army medic and later trauma nurse, is a passionate mountaineer. When, in 1993, he failed to scale Pakistan’s K2 and became separated from his expedition, his life was saved by the villagers of Korphe, in the Karakorum Mountains. At this pivotal moment in time he pledged to give them something back, something they needed desperately – a school.

Back in California he began raising funds to fuel his ambition, while working hospital night-shifts. With a target of $12,000, he hand-typed 580 letters to celebrities, TV networks and big businesses. He had one reply – a cheque for $100 from NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw.

Concerned to reduce costs, he abandoned his rented apartment and slept in his car, living on fast food meals. Then, a school collected $600 – all in pennies – and mailed him a cheque. But the biggest boost came when the Swiss-born millionaire physicist (and climber), Jean Horni, donated the full $12,000. From that moment, with the creation of the Central Asia Institute in Bozeman, Montana, Greg’s financial worries receded and the real work began.

Over the following 10 years Mortenson built not only the school at Korphe, but another 54, both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan – the most heavily land-mined country on Earth. Contending not only with appalling roads but with frequent rock-falls, he survived an armed kidnapping, fatwas served by hostile mullahs, and almost daily vehicle problems.

Throughout these challenges Greg held tight to his core beliefs; a keystone of his philosophy is the need to empower girls in particular, since they are proven to act as catalysts in cascading their thirst for learning to others in their communities.

The climber’s conviction is that conflict can be resolved only by education – and now the Pentagon is taking notice and asking his advice. Stubbornly refusing the military’s offers of funding, he continues to promote peace – one school at a time.

A  mind-changing book: visit http://www.threecupsoftea.com.

William Beatty

(This article first appeared in Andalucia Life magazine.)

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August, 2009

“Winter in Madrid” by C.J. Sansom

FirstWinter in Madrid published in 2006, this novel is a successful fusion of the genres of historical romance, love story and political thriller, set against the background of post-Civil War Spain during World War II.  If you have not yet read Sansom’s other work, but have enjoyed, for instance, “Enigma”, by Robert Harris, then this chunky (537 pages) paperback is well worth opening.

Sansom has chosen to set his story of love and intrigue at a pivotal moment in time – in this case 1941 – and just as in “Doctor Zhivago”, or “Gone with the Wind”, the scale of the historical events lends a special grandeur to the human affairs which unfold before us.

The narrative follows the interconnected lives of three one-time school friends, and that of a nurse known to all three of them, as they become involved in events under the repressive Franco regime.

Harry Brett, a Dunkirk survivor, is recruited by British Intelligence to confirm reports of gold being discovered in Spain. If true, the British Foreign Office fears that a Spain newly-enriched and self-sufficient might shrug off its neutrality and join Germany in the war. In the course of his spying Harry falls in love with a Spanish girl but has to conceal this from his Embassy colleagues. His mission in Madrid is to contact his old school friend, Sandy Forsyth, now a shady “entrepreneur” acting as a go-between in the gold-mining project.

Forsyth, something of a Harry Lime character, is living in Madrid with Barbara, a nurse who is secretly running a mission of her own – to trace her former lover, Bernie Piper, an International Brigade fighter reported missing in battle.

The author’s research is meticulous, creating a credible atmosphere of tension and introducing characters and dialogue that have the authentic feel of the 1940s. Indeed, Sansom uses real people in the book, particularly Sir Samuel Hoare who was tasked by Churchill with keeping Spain out of the war.

This novel, besides being an exciting read, raises topical issues, especially at this time as Spain’s new Historical Memory Legislation begins to bite, and invites speculation about what might have happened if Spain had joined the war or if a demoralised Britain after Dunkirk had sought an accommodation with Germany.

“Winter in Madrid” was heavily tipped as likely movie material by U.K. national press reviewers and has led to C.J. Sansom being listed on book trade websites among the 25 British authors to watch out for.

Enjoy your reading!

William Beatty

(This review was first published in Andalucia Life magazine.)

_________________________________________________________

September 2009

“Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Published by Penguin.

Three Cups of TeaSince 2006 this book has sold millions, never been remaindered and still has no lack of takers. The Washington Post termed it “excellent” and “unassailable”. This factual account of one ordinary man’s quite extraordinary achievement proves truth to be stranger than fiction. Mortenson, ex-army medic and later trauma nurse, is a passionate mountaineer. When, in 1993, he failed to scale Pakistan’s K2 and became separated from his expedition, his life was saved by the villagers of Korphe, in the Karakorum Mountains. At this pivotal moment in time he pledged to give them something back, something they needed desperately – a school.

Back in California he began raising funds to fuel his ambition, while working hospital night-shifts. With a target of $12,000, he hand-typed 580 letters to celebrities, TV networks and big businesses. He had one reply – a cheque for $100 from NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw.

Concerned to reduce costs, he abandoned his rented apartment and slept in his car, living on fast food meals. Then, a school collected $600 – all in pennies – and mailed him a cheque. But the biggest boost came when the Swiss-born millionaire physicist (and climber), Jean Horni, donated the full $12,000. From that moment, with the creation of the Central Asia Institute in Bozeman, Montana, Greg’s financial worries receded and the real work began.

Over the following 10 years Mortenson built not only the school at Korphe, but another 54, both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan – the most heavily land-mined country on Earth. Contending not only with appalling roads but with frequent rock-falls, he survived an armed kidnapping, fatwas served by hostile mullahs, and almost daily vehicle problems.

Throughout these challenges Greg held tight to his core beliefs; a keystone of his philosophy is the need to empower girls in particular, since they are proven to act as catalysts in cascading their thirst for learning to others in their communities.

The climber’s conviction is that conflict can be resolved only by education – and now the Pentagon is taking notice and asking his advice. Stubbornly refusing the military’s offers of funding, he continues to promote peace – one school at a time.

A  mind-changing book: visit http://www.threecupsoftea.com.

William Beatty

(This article first appeared in Andalucia Life magazine.)

___________________________________________________________

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