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Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die: The Assassination of a British Prime Minister
Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die: The Assassination of a British Prime Minister
by Andro Linklater
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten men, 11 Jun. 2013
Spencer Perceval has been relegated to a pub quiz question - who is the only Prime Minister to have been assassinated? Many people are unaware of the fact. This book tries to right that and gives an impressive commentary of the events that occurred in the House of Commons in 1812. We hear about Perceval's autocratic Premiership and the travails of his assassin, John Bellingham - a tragically flawed character who blamed the government for his business failings and imprisonment in Russia. Linklater offers something new by digging into how Bellingham managed to fund his three-month stay in London prior to the assassination and suggests that he was funded by anti-Perceval interests who hoped to bring down the Prime Minister - although how far they were aware of Bellingham's ultimate intentions, rather than attacking the government in court, is unclear. Well-written, easy to follow, this is an excellent accessible history of a mostly forgotten subject.


The King's Revenge: Charles II and the Greatest Manhunt in British History
The King's Revenge: Charles II and the Greatest Manhunt in British History
by Michael Walsh
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressively researched, 4 Jun. 2013
When Charles II came to the throne in 1660, he was keen to track down and bring to justice the regicides - those who he saw as responsible for the murder of his father, King Charles I. This book plots the fate of the regicides, from those who were hunted down even as Charles was in exile and the Commonwealth ruled Britain, to those who managed to escape Charles' wrath and outlived the king. The tone is largely against Charles' thirst for blood, but doesn't judge the king too harshly. After all, this was a time when trials and justice was often slanted in favour of political needs - as the example of Charles I himself shows, recounted early in the book. The research is impressive - the authors have had to track the lives of many men through the seventeenth century sources - and they should be congratulated on produced this work.


If Britain Had Fallen: The Real Nazi Occupation Plans
If Britain Had Fallen: The Real Nazi Occupation Plans
by Norman Longmate
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Counterfactual that occasionally gets carried away, 28 May 2013
This is an interesting one. The book is split into three parts. The first few chapters are strictly historical and deal with British plans to prepare for and defend against a German invasion in 1940 - good historical writing. The third part describes Nazi plans for Britain if the invasion were successful. This part is partly based on archive evidence and genuine Nazi plans on dealing with Britain, partly based on extrapolation and assumption based on what happened when German occupied the Channel Islands and Denmark. Longmate tends to confidently stick to one particular idea of the occupation and doesn't often cover equally-viable alternative scenarios. My main sticking point is with the second part, a mostly-fictional account of the invasion. It might be based on the real-life Operation Sealion plans, but Longmate gets carried away and imaginatively comes up with a Nazi war atrocity (burning women and children to death in a church in Winter Hill) and Churchill's last stand (going down in a hail of bullets while defending Downing Street, his last words comparing himself to Gordon at Khartoum). Longmate has gone too far from the facts here, and these chapters seem more at home in a Hollywood blockbuster than a properly-researched counterfactual. I'd rather the publisher did away with these chapters completely, they degrade from the genuine historical research of the rest of the book.


The Challenge: Britain Against America in the Naval War of 1812
The Challenge: Britain Against America in the Naval War of 1812
Price: £6.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Authoritative, 21 May 2013
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Better known on the American side of the water than the British side, the War of 1812 bridges the War of Independence and the Civil War. Repeating the conflict between the USA and Britain, it helped forge a sense of American identity but also widened the cracks between north and south that would culminate in the Civil War. As befits his speciality, Lambert takes us through the naval war, skimming over the land conflict. He tells us about the initial successes the American navy had through to the ultimate victory gained by British blockades. The penultimate chapter, in which Lambert analyses the conflict that he has described, is probably the high point and very well argued. Sometimes a little repetitive in going over the same ground, otherwise a good read.


The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forrest Gump in print, 21 May 2013
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A publishing sensation, helped by aggressive pricing that saw the Kindle version at 20p for a few months, The Hundred-Year-Old Man was bought by many people purely on a basis of price - including myself. What followed was a pleasant surprise. The hundred-year-old man of the title escapes his retirement home and ends up on an adventure with plenty of twists, turns and escapades. Running parallel to the main story, we also hear about his life in which he ended up involved in many key events of the 20th century in a similar vein to Forrest Gump. All in all, both sides of the story are entertaining. Well worth paying full price for!


Robinson Crusoe
Robinson Crusoe
Price: £0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars The original and best, 21 May 2013
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This review is from: Robinson Crusoe (Kindle Edition)
Everybody has heard of Robinson Crusoe - castaway on a desert island, he has to survive as best he can. This book is deserving of its 'classic' status. Well written, without the overly flowery text that many others of the age have, it's the original castaway story that stands up to the tests of time. Much copied, rarely bettered.


Plague of Sinners, A (Chronicles of Harry Lytle)
Plague of Sinners, A (Chronicles of Harry Lytle)
by Paul Lawrence
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Improvement, 30 April 2013
Having read the first book of the series, I was a little unconvinced, but intrigued enough to try Harry Lytle again. My main problem with the first book is that the author fell foul of the 'show, don't tell' rule. The plot seemed to lurch from one set-piece scene to another and characters would blurt out the next stage of the plot rather than Lytle - and the reader - 'discovering' it for themselves. It still happens in this second book, but not to the same extent. The characters have become more likeable too. This isn't up to the high standard of some of the big names in historical fiction, but it is an enjoyable romp through plague-ridden London.


Birds in a Cage: Warburg, Germany, 1941. Four P.O.W. birdwatchers. The unlikely beginnings of British wildlife conservation.
Birds in a Cage: Warburg, Germany, 1941. Four P.O.W. birdwatchers. The unlikely beginnings of British wildlife conservation.
by Derek Niemann
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Freedom of the mind through birds, 23 April 2013
This is a harrowing but uplifting tale centred around four prisoners of war, all of whom spent the majority of the Second World War in German POW camps. All four also had an interest in birds, which helped them pass the time and come through of the experience. What better way to release their minds beyond the barbed-wire fences than by watching the birds, who could go about their lives both inside and outside the barbed wire. Working without binoculars or other aids, they carried out scientific studies of birds and their behavior - redstart, goldfinches and many more. The book is very well-researched with the help of the four families, although it's a little short and very focused on the birding side of the story. Personally, I'd have rather the book been a little longer and gone into a little more detail on the POW experience - more on the food, living conditions, other activities that went on around them - but essentially, I enjoyed this book and I'm saying I wanted it to go on longer. So recommended reading!


Sword and Scimitar
Sword and Scimitar
by Simon Scarrow
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing change, 16 April 2013
This review is from: Sword and Scimitar (Hardcover)
Simon Scarrow has tried something different here, moving beyond his familiar ground of the Roman Empire to the battles between the Ottoman Empire and the Order of St John. Scarrow has done his research, and the fresh setting is a good one. The plot, while a little extreme, keeps the action rattling along. The risk is that a story set during a siege becomes bogged down in days of tedium, but Scarrow avoids this. The one weakness I found was the development of some of the characters. Cecil and Walsingham are caricatures, while Sir Oliver Stokely is too shallow and one-dimensional. Stokely's shift in attitude towards the main character, Thomas, is an almighty lurch - this is a man who does nothing but sneer and try to send Thomas on suicide missions for the first two-thirds of the book, then suddenly he is sacrificing himself. However, Stokely apart, I found this an engaging read.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 5, 2014 3:28 PM BST


If I Die in a Combat Zone
If I Die in a Combat Zone
by Tim O'Brien
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars He can tell war stories, 9 April 2013
This is a haunting account of a soldier fighting in Vietnam. Tim O'Brien pulls no punches - he was called up in the draft and thought the Vietnam War was wrong, and considers evading the draft and deserting once he has begun training for deployment. He doesn't, and when in Vietnam, his experiences do nothing to change his mind about the conflict. The brutal methods of waging war - from both the Viet Cong and American sides - will occasionally turn the stomach. This book does something that I've not come across before, and shows how the American troops - who would no doubt have been average men on the street in other circumstances - could become so frustrated that they lashed out against innocent victims. Having said that, O'Brien does his best not to judge or explain - his is the role of as neutral an observer as he can make himself. As O'Brien says, "can the foot soldier teach anything important about war, merely for having been there? I think not. He can tell war stories." But we can sure learn from those stories.


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