Simon Winder’s trilogy – Germania, Danubia and now Lotharingia – is rather remarkable ... It is an insane undertaking, yet somehow he has got away with it and come to the end of his 'personal history' largely unscathed ... The dynastic twists and turns are at times hard to follow, and I could have done with better maps than Winder has supplied. A separate chronology might also have been handy, but perhaps “personal histories” frown on such academic apparatus. On the plus side, he is a jolly guide ... offering shafts of illumination that make the distant, knotty past come alive ... His reluctance to follow chronology and his liking for unexpected byways...mean you have to be on your toes and piece together the key developments yourself ... Winder overdoes the knockabout humour and at times comes close to the tone of 1066 and All That with his tales of bloodthirsty nobles and long-suffering peasants. But his strength is that, ignoring what pusillanimous academics might think, he trusts himself to have a go at reframing European history.
Despite the huge research that has gone into this book, [Winder] wears his learning lightly, and much of it written in the form of personal travel memoir, as he explores the enormous cultural riches of this place ... Winder is at his best when writing about people such as Dürer ('My favourite German'), Hieronymous Bosch, Holbein. His deep appreciation of their work allows irreverence.
Lotharingia is a hybrid of conventional history and waspish travelogue delivered at a cracking pace. Winder’s meanderings...enliven his racy narrative. They convey a real sense of place and continuity ... Purists might dismiss Winder’s work as Horrible Histories for adults. He certainly has an eye for the absurd, the stupid and the cruel. But his erudition is beyond doubt. His mission is to engage and entertain. His numerous tangents still manage to grip the reader ... Winder is fascinated by the quirks of geography, the enclaves and exclaves and micro-kingdoms of Lotharingia. This is a quirky book. But it is also an intelligent treatment of the vanities of (mostly) men and a thousand years of often pointless bloodshed.