on 23 June 2004
I have only read bit of this book as of yet, but am thoroughly impressed by the content of the book and the sympathetic way the author takes you on the journey from the evolution of this fascinating creature, it's cultural history, exploitation, conservation and current status in society.
It's a lovely book and one that anyone with even a remote interest in Tortoises should certainly buy. It's well illustrated, written and engaging. I look forward to buying the rest of the books in the 'animals' series.
5 stars *****
on 8 October 2014
I own a dozen or three books published by Reaktion and I treasure them; they're intelligent, well-informed and at least slightly unconventional books and they are without exception absorbing, well-written and beautifully produced. I shan't say that Tortoise is an exception because by tomorrow afternoon I'll have been to the 2nd-hand bookshop and I'll no longer own it.
The author is clearly fascinated by tortoises and has read a fair ould bit about them. His style is unobjectionable and he sometimes has interesting things to say about the subject. Unfortunately he has a lot of other things to say, all of them reminiscent of the things a student taking a test for which she's ill-prepared says in the vain hope that all those tangential facts and all those redundant ones will disguise her failure to revise.
I could give the pointless detailing of literary references over the years to the tale of the tortoise and the hare or describe the 5 pages of veterinary photos as examples of the padding but I think some of the captions to the illustrations are most telling: If a stele depicts amongst other things a tortoise be sure that you'll be told what irrelevant event or person the stele commemorates. A photo of a sculpture of a child 'playing with' (trying to strangle, looks to me) a tortoise is, Young tells us, a work from 1831-3 that is now in 'the Louvre, Paris' and won the sculptor the L.d'H. and a commission. A caption to a picture of a fountain that Bernini 'probably' had a hand in, one in which six relatively very tiny tortoises seem to be hanging for dear life onto the lip of a bowl, mentions an artist who influenced Bernini, tells us Bernini's (seldom used) forename, tells us the name of the sculptor who made the fountain, and tells us the year of the fountain's 'restoration'/modification. The body text is along the same lines and interested though I am in tortoises I gave up reading the book halfway through.
I've no reason whatsoever to think that the other books in Reaktions 'Animal' aren't up to the publisher's usual standards. I'm sorry indeed that this book isn't.
2 1/2 stars because of the wonderful illustrations and because it's from Reaktion.