Profile for Mac McAleer > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Mac McAleer
Top Reviewer Ranking: 694
Helpful Votes: 505

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Mac McAleer (London UK)
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-18
pixel
A Journey around My Room (Alma Classics)
A Journey around My Room (Alma Classics)
by Xavier De Maistre
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Late 18th century diversions, 9 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This short book contains two pieces of writing by Xavier de Maistre, both based on the same premise - a journey around a room. In fact, this premise is an excuse for a semi-serious, semi-comic series of flights of fancy. The author was a late 18th century French aristocrat with a romantic attitude and I was concerned that I might find these writings dated and inconsequential, which to some extent they are, but I enjoyed reading them. I was aware that these writings were relatively short so there was always an end in sight. However, when the ends came I was a little disappointed that there was not more to read.

There is one journey, "A Journey around My Room", and one expedition, "A Nocturnal Expedition around My Room". Both rooms are in Turin, where de Maistre was serving in the army, but the rooms are in different buildings, at different times. The first building was destroyed when the Fench revolutionary war reached Turin. The Journey lasted 42 days, when de Maistre was confined to his apartment after fighting a duel, so it is really a prison diary. The Expedition lasts for only 4 hours, from 8pm to midnight, and consists mainly of the author sitting astride his window in the top floor, looking out at the sky, the roof, his neighbours and the city and describing his thoughts.

Towards the end of the book he describes his method: "There was an old woman, a relative of mine, very witty - her conversation was always very interesting. But her memory, both inconstant and fertile, often led her to leap from one episode to the next, and from one digression to another, to such an extent that she was obliged to ask her listeners for their help: "So what was it I was telling you about?" she would ask, and often her listeners too had forgotten, which plunged the whole assembly into indescribable perplexity. Now, it may have been noticed that the same thing often happens to me in my narrations, and I have to admit that, yes, the plan and order of my journey mimic exactly the plan and order of my aunt's conversations"

"A Journey around My Room" is 69 pages and "A Nocturnal Expedition around My Room" 62 pages. There is a 4 page Foreword by Alain de Botton and a 7 page Introduction by the translator, Andrew Brown. Alain de Botton concentrates on the journey aspect, noting that in familiar places "We have become habituated and therefore blind". Andrew Brown emphasises the literary comparisons. He mentions Beckett, Bunyan, Proust, Spoerri and Perec. Asterisks(*) in the text indicate a reference in the 7 page Notes at the end of the book. I found these very useful.


The Strangest Man: The hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius
The Strangest Man: The hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius
by Graham Farmelo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An accomplished biography, 27 Feb. 2015
This is a comprehensive and readable biography of one of the earliest theorists of quantum mechanics. It is a substantial book of over 400 pages and the author, Graham Farmelo, has obviously spent much time and effort over it. This ought to be a difficult and boring book, but it isn't. The author manages to take the life of an impenetrable character who spent most of his life thinking about an impenetrable subject and make it interesting.

Paul Dirac does not have the name recognition with the general public that several of the other pioneers of quantum mechanics do. This is a pity. It is partly due to his extreme introversion, which was possibly autism, and his desire for a very private life. This is also probably the reason for this book's main title "The Strangest Man". I prefer this book's subtitle "The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius". Dirac was Bristol-born, but spent most of his life at Cambridge University. He contributed greatly to the new science and his story should be better known.

There are no scary mathematical equations in this book to put off the general reader. There are many references to scientific theories and mathematical techniques, but these are merely names. For the more technically-minded this book provides a history of the development of the new science as it moved from quantum mechanics to quantum field theory to quantum electrodynamics. Through Dirac's story pass the famous early players of the new theories: Bohr, Born, Einstein, Ehrenfest, Heisenberg, Kapitza, Oppenheimer, Pauli, Rutherford, Schrödinger and Tamm. This is the world of the "Shock of the new" in physics in the 1930s.


A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Alma Classics)
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Alma Classics)
by Joyce James
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Portrait of the Artist as a Young Modernist, 16 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is an enjoyable introduction to the writings of James Joyce. It gives a selective history of Joyce's early life from his childhood up to the end of his university days via the device of his alter ego, Stephen Dedalus. It starts straightforwardly but as Stephen Dedalus gets older the writing becomes more complex. There is an increase in the use of his internal monologues and it develops into a young man's artistic manifesto.

THE STYLE: James Joyce was not fond of the over-use commas, which he keeps to a minimum. He uses double quotes only for quotations. Direct speech is indicated by a dash on a new line in a style used in several European countries. The text is divided into five parts and each part is sub-divided into untitled sections (see Comments). The writing style changes as Stephen Dedalus grows up. In keeping with his Jesuit education Stephen is strongly influenced by Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle and references to them occur in the later parts of the book. Stephen has many internal monologues; these are always at the rational level. The more irrational stream-of-consciousness that occurs in Ulysses is not found here. The book ends abruptly. There is no conclusion. However, Stephen Dedalus will appear again in Ulysses. Asterisks* in the text indicate an entry in the Notes section.

THE BOOK: Buying out-of-copyright classics is a gamble. The cheap ones can be closely printed in dark type on cheap paper. Fortunately this does not apply to this book, which is well printed in a readable font and well bound. The text is 146 pages. This is preceded by a 5 page Introduction and 4 pages of reproductions of black and white photos of Joyce, his parents and Dublin at the time of the book, the start of the 20th century. At the end of the book are: Notes 96 pages; Bibliography 7 pages; James Joyce's Life 4 pages and James Joyce's Works 9 pages. At first I thought there were too many notes but I grew to appreciate them and read the book with two bookmarks, one for the text and one for the Notes, so that I could flip between the two. The text is from the Egoist Press, second edition, 1918.

THE STORY
Part I: The first two pages are of Stephen Dedalus as a very young child. It continues with his experiences as a boarder at his primary school, Clongowes. There are impressions of the school routine and its control by the Jesuit teaching staff. There are the older boys, the sports, the refectory meals. For a time he is sick and in the infirmary. Another time he is wrongly punished when his glasses are broken in an accident. One teacher thinks he has done it deliberately to avoid school work, but he finds the courage to complain of the miscarriage of justice to the headmaster.

Page 1 - as a child: "Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a little boy named baby tuckoo . . ."

Part II: Stephen Dedalus is at home for the school holidays on the outskirts of Dublin, but his father has hit hard financial times and cannot afford the school fees at Clongowes. After an extended period Stephen is sent to another Jesuit school, Belvedere College, in Dublin. Later Stephen accompanies his father to Co9rk where his property is to be sold at auction to clear his debts. After the sale Stephen is with his father in a bar where his father is drinking with the friends of his youth. Stephen feels that he has not had a youth like his father's. Stephen wins an academic prize but squanders the money. Youthful lust takes over and he visits the red light district of Dublin.

Page 50 - extended school holiday: "He became the ally of a boy named Aubrey Mills* and founded with him a gang of adventurers in the avenue. Aubrey carried a whistle dangling from his buttonhole and a bicycle lamp attached to his belt while the others had short sticks thrust daggerwise through theirs. Stephen, who had read of Napoleon's plain style of dress,* chose to remain unadorned and thereby heightened for himself the pleasure of taking counsel with his lieutenant before giving orders."

Page 78 - in Cork with his father: "Stephen watched the three glasses being raised from the counter as his father and his two cronies drank to the memory of their past. An abyss of fortune or of temperament sundered him from them. His mind seemed older than theirs: it shone coldly on their strifes and happiness and regrets like a moon upon a younger earth. No life or youth stirred in him as it had stirred in them."

Part III: Stephen reflects on his frequent visits to the brothels and how these mortal sins will lead to his eternal damnation. He attends his school's annual religious retreat and undergoes the hell-fire sermons. Afterwards, distraught, he goes to confession, confesses everything and receives absolution.

Page 84 - the brothels: "It would be a gloomy secret night. After early nightfall the yellow lamps would light up, here and there, the squalid quarter of the brothels.* He would follow a devious course up and down the streets, circling always nearer and nearer in a tremor of fear and joy, until his feet led him suddenly round a dark corner."

Page 99 - the retreat and the hellfire sermons: The religious retreat covers two days and the hellfire sermons are quoted at length, covering 20 pages. This is excessive, presumably to emphasise just how long and terrorising these sermons were. The Notes say they are based on Pinamonti's 'Hell opened to Christians'.
"- The horror of this straight and dark prison is increased by its awful stench. All the filth of the world, all the offal and scum of the world, we are told, shall run there as to a vast reeking sewer when the terrible conflagration of the last days has purged the world. The brimstone, too, which burns there in such prodigious quantity fills all hell with its intolerable stench; and the bodies of the damned themselves exhale such a pestilential odour that as saint Bonaventure* says, one of them alone would suffice to infect the whole world."

Part IV: After his confession Stephen drops his old ways and becomes excessively devout. He is so devout that the Jesuit director of his school asks him if he thinks that he has a religious vocation. Stephen ponders this and conjures up the image of a Reverend Stephen Dedalus S.J., but in the end he knows that he could not live a priest's life.

Page 124 - Stephen gets religion: "The rosaries too, which he said constantly - for he carried his beads loose in his trousers' pockets that he might tell them as he walked the streets - transformed themselves into coronals of flowers of such vague unearthly texture that they seemed to him as hueless and odourless as they were nameless."

Page 142 - Dedalus will become Deadalus: "His soul had arisen from the grave of boyhood, spurning her graveclothes. Yes! Yes! Yes! He would create proudly out of the freedom and power of his soul, as the great artificer whose name he bore, a living thing, new and soaring and beautiful, impalpable, imperishable."

Part V: Stephen is now at University and there is a lot of student banter but Stephen also has a more serious conversation with some of the students and with himself, where he sets out his ideas on art and beauty, aesthetics and religion. He resists associating himself with the zeitgeist, avoiding both Irish nationalism and Irish Catholicism. Stephen can see that eventually he should leave Ireland for the wider world.

Page 174 - Stephen explains his art: "- But we are just now in a mental world, Stephen continued. The desire and loathing excited by improper esthetic means are really not esthetic emotions not only because they are kinetic in character but also because they are not more than physical. Our flesh shrinks from what it dreads and responds to the stimulus of what it desires by a purely reflex action of the nervous system."

Page 207 - Stephen has lost his religion:
"- Then, said Cranley, you do not intend to become a protestant?
- I said that I had lost the faith, Stephen answered, but not that I has lost selfrespect. What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?"
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 16, 2015 8:59 AM GMT


Digital Calendar Clock i8.1
Digital Calendar Clock i8.1
Offered by DayClox Ltd
Price: £99.00

5.0 out of 5 stars To display the day as text - very good, but cost more than I at first wanted to pay, 9 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
My requirement was to find a clock that clearly and easily displayed the current day of the week as text. All the solutions seemed to be quite expensive, so I at first tried a cheaper solution with the TRIXES LCD clock calendar. This was adequate but not good enough, so I bought this. It cost more than I wanted to pay but it does the job well and I am very happy with it. However, my satisfaction with this clock is overshadowed by its eventual recipient, who could not praise it highly enough.

This clock is supplied with a mains connector. The mains lead goes into the hole at the bottom left-hand-side (when looking at the back). This is not mentioned in the User Instructions leaflet supplied (see Comments). What is also not explained in the User Instructions is that at the back there is a hinged metal rod covered in a plastic moulding flush with the surface. Below it is a small recessed area. Put your finger into the recessed area and lift the moulding upwards for about a centimetre. Don't force it - it should rise naturally. Then twist it anti-clockwise and upwards. This is the stand to keep the clock upright. It seems flimsy, but the device itself is not heavy and I had no problems standing the clock up. When I powered on for the first time I was surprised that the date and time were correct and did not need adjustment. If you do need to make an adjustment, for example to change from the 24 hr clock to the 12 hr clock, note that the process is started by pressing the Menu button at the back. Then follow the instructions in the User Instructions leaflet.

This clock does not have an alarm setting (a question asked on Amazon Answers).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 9, 2015 8:25 AM GMT


Magna Carta (Penguin Classics)
Magna Carta (Penguin Classics)
by Prof David Carpenter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.69

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1215 and all that, 19 Jan. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This thick paperback offers a comprehensive discussion of Magna Carta. The author is an authority on the subject and he provides a readable account.

The book contains the full text of Magna Carta in its Latin original and in English translation. The clauses of the charter are called chapters and these are referenced throughout the book. If you were a knight or a baron this charter was of great importance. For King John this charter was something he was forced to agree to by the barons. It mattered to the peasants who were free. For the unfree peasants who were tied to the land and at the mercy of their lord, this charter was of little interest.

Although King John was later to reject this charter, a revised edition was issued by his son Henry III, later confirmed by his son Edward I. The principles in the charter were gradually extended to everyone in the kingdom and Magna Carta became a founding document of the English-speaking peoples. Of the 63 chapters, the most significant are 39 and 40: "39. No free man is to be arrested, or imprisoned, or disseised, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way destroyed, nor will we go against him, nor will we send against him, save by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land. 40. To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay, right or justice."

The author begins by paying homage to the previous standard work, Magna Carta by J.C. Holt. He then discusses how charters were used in the period and gives an overview of the concerns of Magna Carta, namely the protection of personal wealth from arbitrary confiscation, arbitrary physical treatment of the individual, the organisation of local government and the redress of past grievances, before presenting the full text of the charter. The rest of the book discusses contemporary accounts of King John's character, the initial failure of the charter and the social and political environment. This book can be used in two ways, either as a history of the Magna Carta or as a reference that can be dipped in and out of as required.

THE BOOK has 460 pages of text. The Glossary, Appendices, Bibliography, Notes and Index give another 140 pages. There is a single illustration, which is a map of the English counties. The counties, then and now, were the chief local government division of the kingdom.


TRIXES LCD Digital Alarm clock calendar Thermometer LED Backlight
TRIXES LCD Digital Alarm clock calendar Thermometer LED Backlight
Offered by Digiflex
Price: £8.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Good value for the price, 9 Jan. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Considering the price, I am happy with this device.

My requirement was to find a clock or other device that displayed the current day of the week as text. All the solutions seemed to be quite expensive, except for this one. However, it has several disadvantages. The LCD display needs to be looked at from a short distance and directly, not from the side. You will not see the display across a room. However, even if you are considering one of the more expensive clocks that display the day as text, for example the Digital Calendar Clock by Dayclox, then this device is cheap enough to be tried out first as an alternative.

It is surprisingly light and suffers from having too many functions. Presumably it is designed around a single microprocessor chip and the manufacturer has implemented all the available functions. Thus on the display you get: the time in hours and minutes; the date as a set of numbers for day, month and year; the day of the week as MON, TUE, WED, THU, FRI, SAT or SUN; the current temperature. There is also a button to provide a backlight to the display. This is for use at night, for example on a bedside table, and not to enhance the LCD display. Other functions are: 24 hour or 12 hour time display; the choice of 7 different "songs" for alarms; a birthday reminder function; a timer mode; an ability to change the temperature display between Centigrade and Fahrenheit. The device is set up by using the buttons at the bottom front.

I found these extra functions just complicated the process of setting up the current date and time. Read the accompanying leaflet carefully before you attempt a setup, otherwise you will end up setting an alarm to play a song on your birthday rather than setting the current date and time. Unfortunately, I initially did not take my own advice and dived in to set the date and time without looking closely at the instructions. I then spent some time lost in the set-ups, trying to un-set the alarm and getting stuck inside the timer function, where the device acts like a stop-watch. Somehow I managed to where I started. I then carefully read the instruction leaflet (see Comment), followed the instructions carefully and had no problem with the set-ups.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 12, 2015 8:33 AM GMT


Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms
Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms
by Gerard Russell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.60

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lost world, 11 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is the travel writing of a collector of Middle Eastern minority religions. Surrounded by a Muslim sea, these are the remnants of former religions and their associated cultures that were once far more widespread and in some cases the previous dominate religion. It may seem strange that they have survived at all, but historically Islam has always tolerated the "People of the Book" (the Jews, Sabians and Christians) and geography has also played its part. Compare Europe, where nothing remains of the pre-Christian religions. The religions Gerard Russell investigates are to be found in Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran with an outlier on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. They are also now to be found in Europe and the Americas, fleeing persecution and chasing prosperity and freedom.

The author mixes background facts and histories with travels in the Middle East and their diaspora, which he recounts with a readable journalistic style. He has produced an interesting and informative book that deserves a wide readership in our fast globalising and homogenising world.

THE RELIGIONS are: The Mandaeans, Yazidis, Alawites, Zoroastrians, Druze, Samaritans, Copts and Kalasha. Some of the historical influences on these religions are also discussed, such as the Greek philosophers, especially Pythagoras, Babylonian religion and NeoPlatonism. The Mandaens in the south of Iraq are followers of John the Baptist. The Yazidis are in northern Iraq and Syria. They are sometimes called devil-worshippers due to a misunderstanding of their religion. They are famous for their peacock emblem. The Alawites are in the west of Syria. To their south, in Lebanon, are the Druze. Both of these religions are nominally Shi'a, but they are both heavily influenced by Greek philosophy and both with a secret core set of beliefs available only to their priests. The Druze, Alawites and Yazidis all believe in re-incarnation. The Zoroastrians are the remnants of the pre-Islamic religion of Iran (Persia). This is an old religion that probably influenced early Judaism. The Samaritans are the remnants of the Hebew northern kingdom of Israel, destroyed by the Assyrians seven centuries before Christ. Egypt was Christian before it was conquered by the Moslems; the Copts are the Egyptian Christian survivors. The Kalasha are the pagans surviving in the valleys of the Hindu Kush. They inspired Rudyard Kipling's story The Man Who Would Be King.

THE BOOK: The author was until recently a British diplomat in the Middle East. He speaks Farsi (Persian) and fluent Arabic. The book has a 2 page map showing where the religions in question can be found. The text also has many black and white reproductions of photographs scattered throughout. Many of these were taken by the author; some were supplied by his interviewees. The reproduction could be better. Apparently on the Kindle they are in colour and are quite sharp. At the end of the book is a useful 22 page chapter entitled "Sources and Futher Readings". This is divided by chapter and acts as a reference and as a bibliographic essay. There is also a 13 page Index.


PestBye Battery Operated Cat Repeller - Ultrasonic Cat Scarer
PestBye Battery Operated Cat Repeller - Ultrasonic Cat Scarer
Price: £14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Seems to work, 2 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
How to keep cats out of a garden effectively? Experience has taught me that the black cut-out cats with the glass eyes do not work. The cats just walk past ignoring them. Perhaps lion dung, but where do you buy it and how long does it last? In the end I decided to try the high tech option. I found it difficult to decide which of the small group of products on Amazon would be the best buy. I knew I was looking for one of these sonic devices. Some people have told me that they didn’t work but this didn’t seem to be the consensus of the amazon reviews. I went with the flow and bought the product with the most positive reviews. My only hesitation was should I buy the slightly more expensive devices with rechargeable batteries powered by solar panels.

When delivered it seemed sturdy enough in its tough garden green plastic box. It comes with a short (6 inch) metal stake to fix it in a lawn or you can use the hole at the top of the plastic box to fix it to a wall or fence. I decided to use the stake. It also comes with a small plastic bag containing the fittings: two screws with their nuts attached for the stake and four screws to fix the battery cover. Fixing the stake was easy but a very small screwdriver is required. Be careful not to drop the screws as they are very small and difficult to see. When fitted the stake seemed sturdy enough.

The batteries (4 x AA not included) fit in the back of the box. I placed the rubber gasket for water proofing (it is rectangular rather than square so only fits in one way) in place, put the batteries in the back and then pushed the plastic cover over it. Then came the problem. I was not at all happy about how the four small screws went into their positions. I did a bit of a bodge job on them getting them only ¾ of the way in, but it seemed to work. At some time in the future I will have to unscrew these when putting in new batteries and I hope their fittings are not damaged. I would have preferred better holes for the screws or a clip-in construction for the cover.

You have to decide on the frequency and sensitivity. These are set by two dials on the front of the device. The explanatory leaflet (see Comments below) is short and gives no guidance on the settings. I chose settings at the higher end of the frequency range and a sensitivity in the middle of the range. Between these two dials is a light that lights up blue occasionally, presumably when the ultrasound is pulsing.

Positioning is important, so you may need more than one device. After I first staked the device into the ground, I watched a cat managing to move everywhere except within the device’s field of vision. I also saw a cat happily sitting on the fence behind the device. However, I presume it does work because what I did not see was any cat sitting in front of it. Happily, squirrels and small birds seem immune, or at least immune to the settings I chose. I watched a squirrel moving about in front of the device, stopping to eat and with the blue light of the device going on and off behind it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 2, 2014 1:39 PM GMT


Dumbing Down: Culture, Politics and the Mass Media
Dumbing Down: Culture, Politics and the Mass Media
by Ivo Mosley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essays that grow on you, 1 Dec. 2014
This is a collection of essays on the subject of "Dumbing Down", representing the state of dumbness at its publication in 2000. This is not great book but it is an interesting read that grows on you and the essay format allows you to dip in and out of it.

There are 29 essays, each by a different author and each with a different style. They are grouped into: Government, Culture, Media, Visual Arts, Education, Science, Religion and Environment. The book begins with a 3 page section called "Authors" where each author is given a 3 or 4 line description. I found this very useful. For a complete list of authors and the titles of their essays see the "Table of contents" link on this book's main Amazon page.

I was expecting a lot about barbarians at the gates and the end of civilisation. There was some of this, but in a gentle, thoughtful way. I had no interest in some essays, some I did not understand and some I found thought-provoking. Many of the essays were concerned with the state of dumbness at the date of publication (2000). I would have liked a few more essays taking the longer view e.g. from the 15th century complaining about the replacement of Norman French with the barbarous English; from the 18th century complaining about the introduction of Greek and Latin neologisms into a perfectly good Anglo-Saxon; from the 19th century complaining about the relentless enfranchisement of the uneducated lower orders. We have been going to the dogs for a very long time.

EXAMPLES: For me, notable examples included Tam Dalyell on the decline of the House of Commons; David Lee on the crassness of contemporary art; Nicholas Mosely on the modernisation of the Anglican liturgy; C. D. Darlington's impressive overview of humanity's impact on the environment over the past few millennia; Oliver O'Donovan's essay on Publicity from an ethical Christian point of view; Michael Johnson's even-handed review of the changes to the Civil Service.

THE BOOK is 326 pages long. Unfortunately, there is no index. The editor, Ivo Mosely, provides a 10 page Introduction which acts as a bibliographical essay on the essays that follow. The essays range in length from 4 to 24 pages, with a median length of 10 pages.


The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel
The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel
by Israel Finkelstein
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating reworking of the history of Israel, 25 Nov. 2014
This book takes the results of several centuries of textual investigation of the Bible and matches it with up-to-date results of archaeology. This has produced a fascinating reworking of the history of Israel. The authors present a series of summaries of various stories from the Bible. For each story they then discuss how the Biblical texts have been analysed and interpreted as ancient literature rather than Holy Scripture and then introduce the archaeology to give what they consider to be a probable real history. The paraphrases of the biblical stories are interesting on their own and the discussion of the archaeology is accessible and not at all dusty. Everything is easy to read.

The authors concentrate on Deuteronomy and the books known collectively as the Former Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel (1 and 2) and Kings (1 and 2). Their conclusion is that if was the northern kingdom (confusingly also called Israel) that was the power in the land, but after its destruction by the Assyrians and the forced relocation of its people, it was the smaller, poorer southern kingdom of Judah, centred on Jerusalem, that took over the leadership of the people. In Jerusalem the various writings were compiled, redacted and spun together into the collection that would become the Bible. The temples and hill-top altars of Judah were gradually closed and the temple in Jerusalem became the only recognised centre of worship in the new centralised, literate state. Coincidently, it was at this time that the "Book of the Law" was "discovered" in the temple at Jerusalem. This is thought to have been the book of Deuteronomy. The books of the Former Prophets are often called the Deuteronomistic Histories because of their textual similarities to Deuteronomy. Here history was not written by the victors but re-written by the survivors.

THE BOOK's chapters are in an historical sequence, divided into three parts. Part 1 concerns the early history: the patriarchs, Exodus and the conquest of Canaan. Part 2 concerns the rise and fall of the northern kingdom of Israel up to its annihilation in 720 BC. Part 3 concerns the southern kingdom of Judah's making of the biblical history. Other information is put into the seven appendices. There is a detailed 17 page Bibliography arranged by chapter and then by subject and a 13 page Index. There are also 29 black and white line drawings scattered throughout the text; these are mainly maps and town plans. There are also some dynastic tables of the two Israelite kingdoms and their neighbours. This book became a bestseller in its subject area and is reviewed in detail on Wikipedia. It was made into a four-part television series. This can be seen on YouTube. An overview of this series is on a DVD, but reviews suggest that it has been sanitised to appeal to a wider audience.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-18