Bananas by Peter Chapman

6025515Nonfiction — print. Canongate, 2009. Originally published 2007. 240 pgs. Received from PaperBackSwap.

I should preface this review by stating my bias against bananas. They taste rather like how I imagine cardboard would taste, and I can barely tolerate them in smoothies let alone in baked goods.

But bananas are one of the most popular fruits in the United States and this book, subtitled “How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World”, ended up on the list of books I wanted to read for the Honors Project. Unfortunately, I had a difficult time sourcing a copy of this book until now so I missed the opportunity to learn more about one of America’s favorite fruits.

Not that it would have helped in my thesis or helped further my understanding of this American industry that exists outside the geographic bounds of the United States. Chapman attempts to create intrigue about the banana by framing it in the context of the suicide of the United Fruit Company’s CEO in the 1970s. In fact, this is the precise event that got him interested in writing about bananas for his thesis. (The writing is pretty low for a thesis; more like the first draft of a paper.)

The term ‘banana republics’ refers to a politically unstable country dependent upon the export of a single product such as Honduras and Guatemala, and Chapman’s book sets out to explain how these countries were largely manipulated and ruled by the United Fruit Company and response people like Fidel Castro had toward this company.

Except all this book manages to do is skim the surface of this topic; so poorly that I cannot even call it a primer on the issue. I finished the book and felt like I had gained nothing from the time I spent reading it. Rather than focus on the role the United Fruit Company really had on the countries it was operating in, Chapman wanted to explain how the company operated outside of the United States’ jurisdiction much to the country’s politicians chagrin, but it’s such a hard connection to make in such a brief little book. Conspiracy theories abound!


  1. What a shame! It sounds like it could have been a really interesting book. I myself have learned to like bananas qua bananas, but I still cannot abide with them in things — I don’t eat anything banana flavored, or any banana-related desserts.


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