on 6 January 2008
I loved this book. The short chapters combined with the fluid and easy writing style make it a very easy read - especially if you have to grab your reading in bite sized chunks as I do. Its a great achievement to make a small episode in history into such a great yarn - the stuff of films. A tinpot emperor has annual play fights with his rebellious "neighbours" / subjects but is in the thrall of the imperial Victoria who he (quite rightly) believes is ignoring him, but in a desperate bid to maintain his ties to her country, Tewodros detains her envoys. What follows is an abject lesson in how gunboat diplomacy can't work if there is no coast off which to park your gunboat, the terrain is inhospitable, the warlord driven by religious fervour and a belief in his own divine rectitude - who says we don't learn the lessons of history? In any case, Marsden's book is clearly meticulously researched and he has great knowledge of and sympathy for Ethiopia. History has rarely been made this interesting and easy on the eye. George Macdonald Fraser had a go at this story with Sir Harry Flashman (who undertook to rescue the envoys in "Flashman on the March") - but this altogether more rigorous and yet no less enjoyable version of events cannot be too highly recommended.
on 27 October 2011
I ordered this book as part of my research into my own family history as one of the main protagonists is an ancestor of mine. Not only did it prove useful in that respect but also described a fascinating event in British colonial history. Well written and easy to follow, exciting, shocking, horrifying, it's got the lot really. In case you're wondering Capt Speedy is my GG uncle.