Ben Macintyre writes some fine books on recent history. His research is wide-ranging and thorough, and yet he doesn't insist on putting every scrap of it on the page. I've come to expect great writing from him, and this was no exception.

Elisabeth was the forward-thinking sister of Friedrich Nietzsche. She wasn't content to be decorative and delicate, like many women of her time and class. She loved her philosophising brother, but not enough to accept his dire warnings of the consequences should she follow the path she'd chosen, and marry and support professional anti-Semite Bernhard Forster. Forster had no talents in particular, and nothing to offer except the negativity of his hatred for the Jews of Germany, and of the world in general. He hatched his crazy plan to settle in a part of the world where there were no Jews, and chose Paraguay as the place. There were, of course, good reasons why there were no Jews in the Paraguayan jungle: nobody of any race of sound mind would choose to uproot themselves from their lives elsewhere and go to live in an inhospitable environment of jungle dankness and decay, plus hostile terrain, wildlife and, to the extent that there were any, native peoples. What could possibly go wrong? Forster and Elisabeth attracted other anti-Semites - mostly hard-working but down-at-heel peasants from the furthest reaches of Germany - called their new home Nuevo Germania, then proceeded to build themselves a mansion in the jungle, and to lord it over the peasants until they all began to hate one another.

The book is partly about Friedrich Nietzsche, and is a gentle introduction to a man who was driven by his love of enquiry. It was Elisabeth who was mainly responsible for transforming his work into something that the growing anti-Semitic powers in Germany felt comfortable in taking up. Nietzsche himself hated anti-Semitism, and viewed anybody's racial origin as neither a recommendation nor a denunciation. Elisabeth stole her brother's work, and, once he had died, presented it to the Nazis as their own.

She was a sad and deluded figure, and Ben Macintyre tells her story very entertainingly.