USA: BOOK REVIEW - FOR GOD, COUNTRY AND COCA-COLA - REVIEW BY ROBERT DAWSON.

USA: BOOK REVIEW - FOR GOD, COUNTRY AND COCA-COLA - REVIEW BY ROBERT DAWSON. - By Mark Pendergrast. Weidenfeld and Nicolson; 556pp; £20.

by Robert Dawson is a freelance writer.

By Mark Pendergrast. Weidenfeld and Nicolson; 556pp; £20.

The trouble with company histories is that they're rather like holiday snaps. All very interesting if they're yours, rather tedious if they're someone else's. Mark Pendergrast neatly skirts this problem by placing his detailed account of Coca-Cola within the context of American culture and its influence on the 20th century.

It works. The best quality of this book - and it has many - is its balance. Coca-Cola arouses such strong emotions that the truth is easily obscured. There is the saccharined official version you will find at the Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta. There is also the big bad multi-national so beloved of conspiracy theorists, the giant that buys-off governments, awards valuable bottling concessions to despots and manipulates peasants into parting with the cost of a day's food for a warm sticky bottle of Coke.

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