Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen

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Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen

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Category: History
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Megan Kenny
Reviewed by Megan Kenny
Summary: Fantasyland is a comprehensive, sweeping history which takes the reader on a journey through the mendacity, ambition and greed of America, from its early days as a promised land of religious freedom to the nightmare of the Trump administration.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 480 Date: October 2017
Publisher: Ebury Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1785038655

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Fantasyland covers the history of America from 1517 to 2017 in awesome detail. Covering five centuries of tempestuous history, Andersen paints the conjuring of America in vivid relief. Discussing everything from pilgrims to politicians, the exhilarating gold rush to alternative facts, seminal episodes are explored in forensic detail with razor sharp wit.

This detailed and thorough history highlights the development of the American dream realised through the grasping, greedy ambition of capitalism, from panhandlers to snake oil salesman both past and present. High rollers and delusions abound here and the insidious vines of religion are clearly highlighted by Andersen, as is the steadfast belief in free speech whatever the cost. The collective obstinate drive to be heard and recognised alongside a lack of respect for knowledge or experience are palpable throughout, from the thousands of people who uprooted themselves to follow a dream of fool's gold to talk radio hosts convinced of their belief in conspiracy theories. The reader can see, with an ever-increasing sense of horror, the journey from this dogged determinism to the current climate, in which supporters of Trump have dangerously blurred the line between reality and delusion, to create a monstrous chimera shaped by the American dream and now propagating a distorted nightmare with impunity.

It would be an unforgivable understatement to describe Andersen's research as thorough, it goes far beyond that. Clearly, this is a labour of love, although there is an obvious sting in the tail, and the commitment displayed in piecing together such a comprehensive history should be applauded. Readers are taken on a dizzying journey filled with mesmerising characters, so methodically detailed that they are almost tangible. Andersen's style is acerbic, engaging and accessible and tales are told with the exciting skill of a true raconteur. His sly nod to the foibles of the past will keep you smirking and his keen analysis of the present day will help you rationalise and understand the political circus played out in the media on a daily basis.

Fantasyland is not a light read and so is not for those looking for a quick dip into American history. However, if you are looking for an insight into the choices, traditions and beliefs which paved the way for the Trump administration then Fantasyland is the history for you.

For those interested in further reading about the history of America you could try The American Future: A History by Simon Schama

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Buy Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen at


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