RaveThe TimesMoore gives us a wonderful biography of a ship while shedding light on the culture that shaped and surrounded it ... With exquisite prose, Moore captures the atmosphere as that small container of Britishness headed south ... n extraordinary book about an unlikely ship that defined an age. The book reminded me of one of those opulent 18th-century feasts enjoyed by King George — endless exotic dishes all delivered with exquisite style. Like the age it recounts, it is a book of energy, creativity and self-confidence.
PositiveThe TimesThe author, a prizewinning American military historian, is never afraid to digress; he interrupts meticulous battle narratives with detours about the treatment of smallpox ... This is not a book for anyone in a hurry. Atkinson takes his time, but there’s delight in all that detail ... Atkinson is a superb researcher, but more importantly a sublime writer. On occasion I reread sentences simply to feast on their elegance ... In his previous life Atkinson was probably a Romantic poet.
RaveThe Times...[an] extraordinary book ... Dartnell understands geology, geography, anthropology, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy and history. That’s quite an achievement, but what makes him really special is the way he communicates the interconnectedness of these disciplines in a clear, logical and entertaining way. Origins is one of those rare books that dissolves mystery through the steady application of sublime lucidity. While reading it, I kept thinking: \'Oh, that makes sense\' ... Perhaps the most profound lesson of this superb book is that nothing is permanent, or predictable.
PositiveThe TimesMr Five Per Cent is a remarkable book, if only because Gulbenkian is not an easy subject. His single-mindedness — in the pursuit of art treasures, sex or money — renders him rather dull. Yet Conlin somehow constructs an engaging tale about this one-dimensional man. Every page is packed with figures, but there are also delightful details that provide welcome contrast to all those labyrinthine deals ... Gulbenkian fascinates not because he’s particularly interesting in and of himself, but rather because of the shady deals, broken friendships and family turmoil that littered his life. Gulbenkian, writes Conlin, became \'so fixated on protecting his fortune . . . that he seemed uninterested in the purposes for which it was being preserved\'. Other than that brief moment of reflection, Conlin refrains from criticism. Yet this book still provides an important moral lesson about the pathology of greed.
MixedThe Times (UK)Borman, the joint chief curator for Historic Royal Palaces, claims that this \'biography from the outside in\' offers \'a new perspective\'. That’s not quite true, since others, including Hilary Mantel, have ploughed a similar furrow. Leaving aside its grandiose boasts, Henry VIII and the Men Who Made Him does offer some interesting insights into the king’s character.
MixedThe Times (UK)Lambert is, without a doubt, the most insightful naval historian writing today. His range is immense, his understanding colossal, his sensitivity to his subject profound. This is, however, a very serious book which never attempts to be fun. It will remain a standard text at universities for decades to come, but readers who want to feast on fascinating tales of the sea will probably be disappointed. I found this book admirable, but not particularly enjoyable.
RaveThe Times UKI used to think that John Guy’s biography of Mary, My Heart Is My Own, could never be bettered. That’s probably still true, but this book nevertheless adds something significant to our understanding. Rival Queens is marketed as an account of the conflict between Elizabeth and Mary, but in truth is yet another biography. What makes it special is Williams’s understanding of how gender shaped Mary’s life. This is a feminist history, but not a clumsily theoretical one. Theory and sophisticated analysis never smother the pacey narrative.
MixedThe TimesPigeons are small. They played a small role in the war. They deserve recognition, but in a small way. [This] is a fascinating book, but it’s longer than it needs to be. Corera gets bogged down in the minutiae of interservice rivalries and occasionally pads the narrative with uninteresting detail. In the process, we lose sight of those quirky birds. They’re the real story ... Regardless of the intelligence they brought back, they were a boon to morale, a winged symbol of the determination to prevail.
PanThe TimesIt’s an impressive trawl of data, but what she does with that research worries me ... Patterns...always seem obvious when looking backwards, like footprints in the snow. Behold, America is a connect-the-dots history, or, to use another metaphor, the past viewed through the wrong end of a telescope ... the past should not be shoehorned into a convenient narrative. Had Churchwell stuck to the task of analyzing the past in its context, as historians are supposed to do, she might have produced a classic text on the American dream or America first.
PositiveThe Times (UK)The French are going to hate this book ... Napoleon has, for the most part, enjoyed an easy ride from historians, who are usually too intoxicated by his daring military victories to notice his serious flaws ... Zamoyski’s research is meticulous, his writing sublime, but the story suffers because of his admirable refusal to indulge in romantic fantasy. This is probably one of the truest biographies of Napoleon, but unfortunately the truth can sometimes be dull. That qualification aside, this book undoubtedly needed to be written.
RaveThe Times\"Hastings is perfectly suited to write about the Vietnam War. He witnessed its peculiar tragedies at first hand, arriving in Saigon in 1971 as a reporter at the age of 24. It’s fitting that a journalist should chronicle this war, since journalists played such a prominent part. The fact that Hastings is British is an additional advantage, since American writers are often blinded by their insularity ... This is a long book but not a bloated one; this war demands the detail that Hastings provides. His basic arguments are not particularly new, but the book itself is still original. What makes it so magnificent is its intimacy. Hastings possesses the journalist’s instinct for a good story, the tiny anecdote that exposes a big truth. Large tragedies are illustrated through very personal pain.\
RaveThe TimesIf you have wondered why so many classical statues are missing heads, arms, noses and genitalia, now you know ... The Darkening Age is a delightful book about destruction and despair. Nixey combines the authority of a serious academic with the expressive style of a good journalist. She’s not afraid to throw in the odd joke amid sombre tales of desecration. With considerable courage, she challenges the wisdom of history and manages to prevail. Comfortable assumptions about Christian progress come tumbling down.
RaveThe TimesIt’s sometimes difficult to keep track of all those brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and cousins in castles scattered across Europe. That difficulty is compounded when the focus of attention is on a royal family with 13 children. But Goldstone is a master juggler. She tells a good story, always with a delightfully light touch. In the process, extraordinary women are given the attention they deserve. Goldstone brings them to prominence in a way that preserves their femininity while highlighting their strength. This is a feminist history without ever trying to be one. Women saved this family. Sisters did it by themselves.
Benjamin Carter Hett
MixedThe TimesAJP Taylor once argued that Hitler’s rise was as inevitable and unsurprising as a river flowing into the sea. Hett rejects that notion, offering instead a perfect storm of economic misery, government incompetence, popular prejudice, a flawed democratic structure and a febrile public mood. This is an intelligent, well-informed explanation, but not original ... Hett’s stories promise much, but he is much more interested in sober analysis of politics at the highest levels and the sometimes tedious machinations of scheming politicians in the Weimar years. I missed the ordinary people, the banal multitude who made evil possible.
MixedThe Times (UK)David Christian is not a big fan of micro-history. \'Specialisation,\' he argues, \'makes it difficult for any individual to stand back far enough to see humanity as a whole.\' ... Origin Story is first about physics, then chemistry, and finally biology. With 13.8 billion years covered in just over 300 pages, there’s little room for minor details such as politics, culture or morality.
At the same time the book annoyed me...On one page he argues that \'more and more people are joining the new middle class as the numbers living in extreme poverty fall\'. In the next paragraph we learn that \'there are far more people living in extreme poverty than there were in the past\'. The contradictions baffle me.
PositiveThe Washington Post[The] variety leads to an inconsistency of tone: Some are lighthearted, others somber. The short ones should be longer, the longer ones shorter. But does this matter? Probably not. This is an untidy book, but a great one. In truth, this is not really travel writing in the recognized form of the genre. The reader who expects a collection of quirky anecdotes about fascinating places will be disappointed. Far & Away is not just a voyage around the world; it’s also a voyage around Andrew Solomon ... intense purposefulness is what makes this book extraordinary. Travel is usually self-serving. Solomon’s is seldom that. Hope fuels his voyages ... This is a very noble book. It’s also a very depressing one.
PanThe Washington PostWinik’s attempt to change history is ultimately unconvincing. The field of Holocaust studies is crowded with books much more worthy. In truth, 1944 left me rather annoyed. It’s poorly conceived and shoddily presented.