An expert cultural study ... both authoritative and entertaining and offers a much-needed antidote to the din of the Brexit debate. Here is the long view, across three centuries, of a cultural exchange that is rich, complex and tenacious ... one of the pleasures of The Warm South is its restless flitting from place to place, vicariously guided by long-dead visitors or residents ... Also a pleasure are the book’s illustrations, full of the color and light and casual antiquity that are so much part of the story.
Holland’s searching, original book takes Keats’s phrase and hugely widens its scope ... Holland has the advantage of boundless enthusiasm and seemingly limitless reading. I have seldom read a book that uses out-of-the-way knowledge so tellingly ... At all events this is a book so crammed with interest that when you finish it you feel like starting all over again to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
Holland paints a large canvas with broad brushstrokes, paying little attention to detail. There are, in addition, a number of lacunae in his narrative: he says nothing about the sexual availability of Mediterranean boys, or how many non-poetic tuberculosis sufferers migrated there, gasping for air. I would also have liked something on the breed of early 20th-century travel writer inspired by the Mediterranean. Robert Byron is briefly mentioned, but Norman Douglas, who epitomised the louche culture of Capri, Naples, Florence and Calabria between 1897 and his death in 1952, gets no mention at all ... More sightseeing excursion than deep excavation, The Warm South is like being rushed along by a guide with a tight schedule, a firm agenda and a dislike of too many smart-arse questions.