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Stonehenge (Wonders of the World) Hardcover – 12 Jun 2008

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (12 Jun. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861978650
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861978653
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.7 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 392,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Her book is a treasure: stylish, thoughtful, miraculously condensed, and as full of knowledge as a megalith is full of megalith. (Sunday Times)

...a lucid and sophisticated history explaining how the meaning of Stonehenge is in perpetual flux. (The Independent)

...excellent...an important and deeply satisfying book. (Conde Nast Traveller)

...brings genuine originality to the cultural history of Stonehenge. (Times Literary Supplement)

What sets this work apart is the empathy and intellectual generosity that suffuses it... Hill... has a rare gift for seeing the best in people, and her book inspires one to investigate further the heroic cast of architects, antiquaries, writers and artists. (Guardian 2008-07-05)

'Rosemary Hill's entertaining whirlwind scrutiny of that monument's reputation and interpretation over several centuries' (Jonathan Meades New Statesman 2008-07-14)

Review

`Clear, intelligent and often highly amusing, this study achieves something new in the voluminous literature on Stonehenge.... excellent.' --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bob Ventos on 11 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After describing, at the start, where Stonehenge is and who owns it, the author says "At this point we come, almost, to the end of the uncontested facts". So she concentrates instead on how Stonehenge and its 'meaning' have been argued over, and even fought over, across the centuries. How it's been taken a symbol of authentic Britishness - or of Roman, Danish, Phoenician, Mycenaean or space-god influence. How its dating has kept changing (and still is); its enduring associations with King Arthur, Druidry, The Wicker Man and astronomy; and its fascination not only for antiquarians and academics but also for the counterculture, the Earth Mysteries movement, and ordinary tourists.

The book does look at the archaeology: the three-phase building (with the sarcen stones now dated to about 2580-2470 BC), and the enduring puzzle of how the bluestones could have been brought to the site from Wales. And it reminds us that it's not an isolated monument, but is part of a whole network of earthworks in the area - including its equally mysterious wooden counterpart, Durrington Walls.

What becomes really clear though, is how influential Stonehenge has been on British culture. Over time, people have thought it a temple, an observatory, a hospital or spa, a monument to ancestor-worship, a royal burial ground, or even Stone Age sculpture. It's featured in the arts from Wordsworth to Spinal Tap via Thomas Hardy and Barbara Hepworth. It has inspired strange follies, and influenced unlikely areas of British architecture from Bath to Covent Garden to Milton Keynes. Finally the book reviews how the solstice has been celebrated there on and off since the 1870s with the Free Festivals, the Battle of the Beanfield, and the current 'open access'.
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By Eleanor TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 12 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback
Hill opens her book by stating that there are very few uncontested facts when it comes to Stonehenge, and this is less an account of Stonehenge's origins and purpose, than a history of how it has been viewed, received, and treated through the centuries. The chapters cover 17th and 18th-century antiquaries, architects such as Inigo Jones and John Wood, romantic artists and writers, Victorian geologists and archaeologists, and 20-century day-trippers and new-agers, ending with an overview of the present debate over what is to be done with the monument.

This all adds up to a comprehensive and entertaining survey. Various characters are introduced, each having their own (often bonkers) theory as to who built Stonehenge and for what purpose. These people were often eccentrics and Hill describes them wittily, for example there is Jens Jacob Worsaae, an archaeologist who 'on his more important excavations..liked to be accompanied by a brass band', and the polymath John Lubbock who spent three months trying to teach his poodle to read 'without success'.

The Druids, despite having nothing to do with the origins of Stonehenge, since the 17th-century have been a constant companion to the monument. They form a thread running through Stonehenge's story and Hill wryly describes their fortunes over time. Her deadpan style is often hilarious such as in the following description of the Edwardian magazine 'The Druid':

"It carried advertisements of interest to readers in search of a 'Druidic Haircut and shave', a Druid convalescent home or a bona fide sample of magic cork.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a lovely book; well written and easy to read. All books written about Stonehenge of course are more or less histories of the theories and ideas that successive writers have presented to us. We can never know what the monument stands for, but we can speculate, with each age seeing it in the light of their own prejudices and mindsets.

This book is no exception, but it's presented to you in a form that is gripping, and gives you much food for thought. I read it in two days, and wished it could have gone on, but it left me feeling frustrated that we know so little about the monument itself and the people who built it. Rosemary Hill could not tell you that, but she could certainly give you a greater appreciation of something that has become almost like an archetype in our minds. Her book is a worthy addition to the volumes of literature that have been written about Stonehenge and the ages in which it was built.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J Bakewell on 30 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
This isn't a book that gets to grips with all the truly interesting things about Stonehenge. In fact the title of the book, Stonehenge, is a bit of a misnomer since Stonehenge only seems to be a running theme rather than the subject of the book. If you're looking for a book that explores the meaning of Stonehenge, why it was built, how it was built, how it is aligned with the sun, moon and stars, this book is not the one you want. This is really a book of the history of Antiquary and Archeology and how Stonehenge has been (mis)interpreted through the ages.

It is not an entirely uninteresting book but it told me very little about the things I am truly interested in.
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