This book was disappointing in several aspects, none of which were related to brevity. We can all forgive authours for oversimplifying movements and works, and skipping past things that are important, because in a short introduction, some things simply must go. However, the authour betrays his religious views on literature throughout this book. For example, Martin Luther is treated with great reverence, yet nothing is mentioned of his raving anti-Semitism, misogyny, or his devotion to ignorance through approaching everything by means of Scripture. Luther did indeed help open the doors to challenge the autocracy of the Catholic Church, but he would not give an inch when it came to critical thinking about the Bible, and he became a papist in his own right when the Lutheran church was established, refusing to allow even the tiniest modifications to the Augsburg Confession of Faith. He sternly rebuked his fellow Lutheran Philip Melanchthon, the principal authour of said confession, because of Luther's extremely fundamentalist position on trivial theological matters, such as the Lord's Supper.
I have not read Boyle's famous work on Goethe, but it is clear to me that he exaggerates the faith in many authours, including Goethe. Romantic writers all over the world showed a positive lack of faith, and a very critical view of the very idea of God, yet Goethe comes across as a good Christian. Immanuel Kant is treated as a great moral philosopher, which he was considered to be, but his thorough critique of religion is barely glanced at. If Boyle could dedicate entire pages to his theistic views, then he had room also for the atheistic ones. Materialism is treated only as an economic factor and used synonymously with coveting, which is a total misrepresentation, since it is, in fact, a great step forward in philosophy and science. Boyle again betrays his onesidedness by trying to attribute all technological advances to other issues, such as Bismarck's reforms.
Boyle also freely employs terms like `Darwinian' and `Nietzschean' only in a negative and parodic manner. They are used to portray nihilism and cut-throat avarice, and the positive and liberating aspects of their thought systems are completely skipped over. Both World Wars are treated only inasmuch as they left a negative impact on the German economy and self-image; no mention is made of Nazi literature and sympathizers. You can't have an account of the 20th century in Germany, however brief, without an account of Nazism. The generations following World War II had, as their central preoccupation, how to deal with what their parents and grandparents did, yet Boyle implies that the only concern was to build a strong economy again through technological development. This is at best a half-truth.
The only strength of the book, indeed, the only value it has, is as an expedient reference work, a gateway to which authours and works to look up. I intend to do so, but I also intend to get myself a better work on German literature, because this work was a great deception.