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Christine C "christine-c" (London)

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The Origins of the British: A Genetic Detective Story
The Origins of the British: A Genetic Detective Story
by Stephen Oppenheimer
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.09

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, though flawed in places, 19 Nov 2010
I found this book a fascinating read, though some of the evidence presented struck me as rather one-sided.

The examination of the early genetic flow into the British Isles was the most convincing part of the author's argument; although some reviewers have felt they had to struggle through it, I have no scientific background whatsoever but did not find it difficult to follow. That the bulk of the ancestors of the British arrived here long before the Romans seems clear.

Less convincing, in my opinion, were some of the arguments on language (based, as the author admits, on an extremely small sample). Additionally, the evidence presented to support the view that there were few Celtic-speaking people in England (as opposed to Wales, Ireland, etc) when the Anglo-Saxons arrived seemed to ignore swathes of potential evidence to the contrary. The Thames and Dover are both names originating from Celtic languages. Boudicca is a Celtic name, and she was on the very opposite side of the country from Wales. Clearly there were Celtic populations in Britain during the Roman era!

The structure of the book is also rather odd. I'm in the habit of taking notes when I read, and this made it frustrating when the author introduces a topic (such as the Belgic origin of pre-Roman era British coins), then moves off in another direction, only to return to add more detail some chapters later.

I would still recommend this book - just not without reservation.

Complete Old English: Teach Yourself
Complete Old English: Teach Yourself
by Mark Atherton
Edition: Paperback
Price: 20.39

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly accessible guide for beginners, 19 Nov 2010
This book provides a pleasantly easy way in to learning Old English, particularly for someone (like myself) who has never been particularly good at languages, and hasn't tried to learn one in over 15 years. It is clearly organized and attractively presented, and includes historical context as well as pointing out the links between Old English words and grammar and their modern English equivalents, which makes them easier to learn as well as being fascinating in its own right.

The book is structured into units with "test yourself" sections at the end; grammar is introduced gradually. This means one isn't overwhelmed with tables of tenses and word endings, which is a particular bonus for anyone who finds inflected languages tricky to get to grips with. On the other hand, if you're perfectly comfortable with nominatives, accusatives, genitives, and so forth, and want to learn declensions straight away, this probably isn't the book for you.

I find that this book's approach suits my learning style extremely well. For the more academically-inclined, it may be too much of a "beginner's guide". In one or two places I found myself wondering why certain endings differed long before they were explained, and I do think the book would benefit from a small series of tables of the basic endings, to go along with its list of vocabulary at the back. This is the main reason I'm giving it 4 rather than 5 stars; plus, it's on the pricey side, but then again most books on a topic of such minority interest tend to be.

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