Top positive review
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Is the author on You Tube?
on 26 May 2013
I've started reading this book in Costa Coffee in Waterstones. I immediately liked this book because I felt that in its opening chapters it gave 1066 a fresh modern treatment that helped you see events from a different perspective. It steps back from just telling the story, to being a bit more critical about how much of the story is actually true. In particular it is very critical of the legitimacy of King Harold, the one who got an arrow in his eye at the Battle of Hastings. Without making a big fuss, it starts the story earlier than 1066, despite the title of the book.
However in the next few pages, I felt the book lost its way a little. I know that computer gamers like to play with historical models and 'what if' type scenarios. So the author discussed a few 'what if' scenarios. This makes the book feel very contemporary. It also makes me think that it will date very quickly as todays current references become old hat.
In someways it is good because it is thought provoking. A knight's contribution to the Royal Exchequer can be described as 0.5 man years in taxation terms. In other ways, it seems to start to lose the plot and to forget to tell the central story. I found that I was skipping a few pages at this point.
The reviews are very mixed and the stars are spread quite evenly. My father-in-law (in Scotland) on the basis of his surname told me that he was of French descent and that he was surrounded by Huns. It is interesting to think that 'the myth' is much more important to people than 'the truth'. It is a bit like the newspaper man who says that the truth should not spoil a good story.
So basically you have 'the story' and then you have a discussion about whether 'the story' is true.
I found that The Normans [DVD] had much more profound effect on me than this book. In this book it mentions in passing that the Normans would cut off the hands and feet of people they did not like. The DVD made the Norman Conquest sound much more brutal. It made me think twice about the heritage and legitimacy of our Kings and Queens. Kings and Queens that history books to a certain extent, venerate.
I have upgraded my review to five stars because I feel that a book like this is really quite an achievement.