Profile for GregB > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by GregB
Top Reviewer Ranking: 289,722
Helpful Votes: 55

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
GregB (Spain)

Show:  
Page: 1
pixel
Hotel Florida: Truth, Love and Death in the Spanish Civil War
Hotel Florida: Truth, Love and Death in the Spanish Civil War
by Amanda Vaill
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars with that hotel on the Gran Vía of Madrid as the pivot for a wonderful account of the travails of the war seen through ..., 1 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A lovely book, totally original in its assembly of main characters and their interlocking lives during the Spanish Civil War, with that hotel on the Gran Vía of Madrid as the pivot for a wonderful account of the travails of the war seen through the eyes of six characters who have found their author. I've never liked Hemingway, whom I regard as a tormented though laughable caricature of hard-boiled tough guys, whose attempts to seal that role for perpetuity were like viscous mud trying to cling to a wall and whose turgid novel about the war, 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' is its own homage to catatonia.. Of the others, the forlorn figure of Arturo Barea is the most noble and appealing to my mind, a person torn by personal conflicts, uncertainties and contradictions, but who resolved them as far as he could in his writing.

I live in Barcelona (Spain) so I was glad to see that Miss Vaill got all the Spanishisms and historical and geographical details right, with one trivial exception: Mora la Nueve (nine) instead of Nueva (new.)

Highly recommended!


The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War
The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War
by Tim Butcher
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.90

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I thoroughly enjoyed the book and found no difficulty in taking on ..., 2 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and found no difficulty in taking on board the author's multi-genre approach (ie. history, travelogue and 90's war reporting in retrospect) which seems to have bothered some reviewers. Before reading Mr. Butcher's book, I had read Greg King's 'The Assassination of the Archduke', essentially a biography of Franz Ferdinand and his family, and it was fascinating to contemplate through reading the two books how these two totally disparate characters - one from the highest echelons of the Austro-Hungarian aristocracy, the other from the lowest Bosnian Serb peasantry - were brought together on such separate personal trajectories by fate on that day in June,1914 in Sarajevo.

There's really nothing I can add to the laudatory reviews except for one basically inconsequential caveat - I would have appreciated some photos of the current members of the Princip family with whom Mr. Butcher and his Bosnian friend, Arnie, stayed and interviewed. Perhaps,they were reluctant to be photographed, though; what a pity if so.


Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-1959
Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-1959
by David Kynaston
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slowing down?, 18 Sept. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As someone who has thoroughly enjoyed the previous volumes in the series, I second all the favourable comments made in the reviews of them and those of the latest volume. However, here I really want to comment on the fact that 'Modernity Britain' is only half the length of earlier volumes, which has puzzled some of the reviewers here (notably Mr. Perks.) Given the length of time that has passed since the previous volume, 'Family Britain', much longer (by about two years) than the interval between the first two volumes - due perhaps to Mr. Kynaston having a rather heavy work load in recent years - the publishers may have decided to just release what is effectively the first of two 'books' within the volume rather than wait for the entire volume's completion. Actually, the second part (1960 to 1962) now figures in the Amazon list of Mr. Kynaston's works (not the personal page but that which appears when his name is typed in the Amazon search) where it is scheduled for publication on September 11th, 2014, though when the link is opened up, the publication date is left open.

So there may be a long wait ahead for that second part now, not to mention subsequent volumes if the recent pace is anything to go by. Oh well, one can always fall back on Dominic Sandbrook's excellent two-volume history of the 1960's in the meantime.


The First Four Notes: Beethoven's Fifth and the Human Imagination
The First Four Notes: Beethoven's Fifth and the Human Imagination
by Matthew Guerrieri
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.48

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Knock Knock. Who's there...?, 30 Dec. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is just the kind of book I enjoy thoroughly, ranging up and down the cultural history of the last two centuries and drawing in material from a wide range of disciplines, from music itself through 19th century philosophy in both Europe and America to literature and beyond. The erudition of the author in writing a book of over two hundred pages using the first four notes of Beethoven's 5th Symphony as its starting point is remarkable and he takes us on a journey of highways and byways which is constantly fascinating and illuminating, as are the characters (eg. Méhul, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx, Wagner, Fourier, Charles Grove, E.M. Forster, Ralph Ellison, Adorno, and many others) who appear at regular intervals as he stops at this and that location on the way to illuminate some new facet of the Fifth Symphony and related matters.

In short, a wonderful read for music lovers with a consuming interest in history, philosophy, literature - everything! One can only hope Mr.Guerrieri will now turn his attention to another musical phrase from which an entire book, and world, can spring.

Oh, I should mention that for those lovers of classical music like myself who are musically illiterate in terms of notation and the like, the book is ideal in that the author spends very little time on the actual technical analysis of the music itself - just a few pages in the first chapter.


Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean
Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean
by Philip Mansel
Edition: Hardcover

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A welcome addition..., 16 Feb. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
...to the existing small stock of books about the great Mediterranean port cities, a subject which I find fascinating (of relatively recent works, I have Mansel's own history of Constantinople from 1453 to 1924, Mark Mazower's 'Salonica: City Of Ghosts', Peter Ackroyd's idiosyncratic history of Venice, Jan Morris on Trieste and Robert Hughes on Barcelona.) Mansel has killed three birds with one stone by writing an interweaving modern history of Smyrna, Beirut and Alexandria and the result is splendid. The combination of straight factual history with anecdotes about the cities and their colourful characters, all against the backdrop of the declining Ottoman Empire, works very well and one's interest is sustained as Mansel switches from one to another as his narrative progresses. Moreover, the stories of Beirut and, above all, Alexandria, have topical interest given the political unrest in Lebanon and the recent uprising in Egypt. On the latter, the story of Mehmet Ali's dynasty, culminating in the military takeover of 1952 with its own resulting 'dynasty' lasting until only recently provides an excellent backstory to the current situation.

I cannot agree with the previous reviewer as this is by no means a specialist or excessively scholarly work (though it's clearly very well-researched and Mr. Mansel is evidently a scholar) and it can be read without any previous knowledge of the subject (one might want to check on the odd detail but that's easy enough these days with the aid of the Internet), though it certainly helps to have a prior interest in these once-magic Levantine cities. Actually, my only 'criticism' is a very mild one: the cover of the book bears a beautiful picture, but it is of none of the three cities in the book. It's Constantinople.

The mingling of different races and religious groups and their periodic descent into communal violence might give pause for thought on the topical question of multiculturalism in our societies, but that tangential aspect is not essential for an appreciation of the book as straightforward history. (My own view, for what it's worth, however, is that it bears out the view that multiculturalism doesn't work and the cracks never take long to show.)

Now, we only need a decent history of the historic Italian port of Genoa, as there doesn't seem to be one - at least a modern one - as far as I can see. Perhaps Mr. Mansel might consider the task now...


The Seventies Unplugged: A Kaleidoscopic Look at a Violent Decade
The Seventies Unplugged: A Kaleidoscopic Look at a Violent Decade
by Gerard DeGroot
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A definite plug for this one., 5 Oct. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I thoroughly enjoyed the author's similarly conceived book on the 60's, 'The Sixties Unplugged', and I was delighted when I read of its sequel, the present book, and I sent for it immediately. It's nicely organised by topics and sub-topics and Mr.DeGroot gives just enough commentary on each one without getting bogged down in excess detail and analysis but without giving them short shrift, either. I like his rather mordant style and humour with some subjects (Nixon is a gift, of course) and having lived through the period myself, I find myself in broad agreement with most of his observations, which are refreshingly free of any political bias. For people who are too young to have lived their 'life on Mars' in the 70's, this is an ideal way to explore that strange decade. As my reference to Nixon makes clear, it covers a broad international canvas, so it is a welcome addition to the recent spate of books on the Seventies which are almost all UK focused.

Soon the spotlight will be turned on that even stranger decade, the 80's, and I'm already looking forward eagerly to Mr. DeGroot's 'The Eighties Unplugged'.


The Morbid Age: Britain Between the Wars
The Morbid Age: Britain Between the Wars
by Richard Overy
Edition: Hardcover

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly different, 3 Jan. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
We're all well accustomed to history books about the Twenties and the Thirties, many of them in the field of social history, and while there are many splendid examples, perhaps we now have something of a surfeit of 'more of the same'. That's why it's so refreshing to find a book like 'The Morbid Age' with its original focus on the pessimistic outlook of much of society in Britain (and elsewhere) between the wars. I think it's fascinating to get to the real nature of a society at a given time, behind and well beyond the simplistic labels, such as The Naughty Nineties, The Belle Epoque, The Roaring Twenties, The Swinging Sixties and the like which just skate superficially over the surface. This is the history of ideas at its best.

Mr. Overy is, in my view, a master historian of modern times, one of the finest of our day, and his detailed analysis of his subject matter here is excellent, painstakingly well conceived and expounded, certainly exhaustive but by no means exhausting, as some have implied. It is also very well written, very important for me when reading history. I found every page fascinating and I was constantly discovering new facts about those troubled times while having fresh light thrown on an era when many might have thought there was nothing more to say. I feel it is set to become a classic of its kind and would unhesitatingly recommend it to serious readers with a powerful curiosity about and interest in aspects of our recent history, especially outside of the more well-trodden paths.


D-Day: The Battle for Normandy
D-Day: The Battle for Normandy
by Antony Beevor
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Up to Beevor's standard, 2 Sept. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Beevor is now an established military historian of considerable renown and his latest work doesn't disappoint, especially given his flair for including anecdotes about the men on the ground which bring his account alive in human terms. His writing skills are as keen as ever and he knows how to tell a story. My only quibble is that, of course, the book isn't really about D-Day, though that takes up the first part and is probably what most readers are interested in, but - as the subtitle says - the battle for Normandy, and given the sheer scale of the operations, one can often get lost amongst so many military formations (on both sides) and local battles in the wake of D-Day. To that extent, it reminded me of Richard Strauss's tone poem,'Also Sprach Zarathustra', the impressive opening bars of which Stanley Kubrick used in his film '2001: A Space Odyssey' and the remaining forty-five minutes of the work being something of an anticlimax. Still, as a comprehensive and readable account of the first few weeks of the Allied invasion of France, it probably can't be bettered and may become the standard work for some time.

After books on Stalingrad, the fall of Berlin and the Spanish Civil War, one can only wonder where Beevor will turn his attention to next. Perhaps the battle for Germany from the British and American side might be a worthy project and an excellent 'sequel' to 'D-Day'.


Page: 1