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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprised by how much I enjoyed this.,
This review is from: How We Built Britain (Paperback)Not my usual choice isn't this. History. (Along with science, art, antiques, gardening and anything with Julia Bradbury's ulcer-inducing enthusiasm in it) my usual reaction to such matter is to retreat discretely into the the reclusive safety net of lazyboy, coffee and QI. Perhaps I'm getting old, perhaps I'm becoming cultured, perhaps this time next year I'll be choking on a briar pipe and remembering the good old days when I used to have fun. Who knows?
I found this cheap in a high street store. I haven't seen the series, and didn't really know whether I'd end up reading it all or simply skimming it and (being as though I'm a bloke) just looking at the photos. The book starts in Norman Britain and leads to the present day (I found this a little disappointing; even a historical pleb like me knows the Roman's and Saxon's lived in buildings, why weren't they included?) Oh well. There are six chapters, each covering a different era (Medieval Britain, The Tudors and The Stuarts, Scotland, The Georgians, The Victorians and Modern Britain). Each chapter covers around ten buildings and each building covers around 2-3 pages, so the book is perfect (for a braindead simpleton like me) for dipping in and out of. Throughout there are beautiful photographs that often highlight the stories being told. There are also several pages at the close of each chapter filled with interesting (period) paintings and illustrations of other important buildings of that age, along with brief descriptions.
The buildings covered are varied and well chosen (from obvious choices like Ely and Belnhiem, to less obvious, though equally interesting, entries such as Stourhead -- a Georgian lake in Wiltshire surrounded by mock Roman temples); and there are fascinating stories and history behind them all. Dimbleby, himself, is an illuminating writer, and has a laid back and amusing style that is perfect for this kind of book. Nothing is really serious, he seems more interested in coming up with a quirky story about the social history or building of the place than giving a stagnant chronicle of it. It's like listening to him on a autumn afternoon with a glass of Guinness. A warm and natural approach that brings the history alive.
I was surprised by how easy I found this book to read; I didn't find it at all stale or boring. I've already ordered his new book (and a set of Virginia samplers), and am looking forward to reading more of his thoughts.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, Entertaining and Attractive (that's the book, not David Dimbleby!),
This review is from: How We Built Britain (Hardcover)First things first: I haven't seen the TV series or the DVD, so my comments are restricted to the book itself!
This is a book for many different readers, and can therefore be enjoyed at a number of different levels.
It's an entertaining and personal account of David Dimbleby's travels to investigate some of the most important buildings and locations in the country, written in an educational but easy-to-read style.
It's an insight into the social background in which each of the book's subjects is placed, and covers the whole spectrum from magnificent fortresses and palaces to the everyday world of viaducts, barns, tower blocks and suburbia. (It's neatly divided into six subsections: Medieval Britain, Tudors and Stuarts, Scotland, The Georgians, The Victorians and Modern Britain)
It's a feast for the eyes with some wonderful specially commissioned photographs which perfectly complement the text.
On a purely practical and financial level: especially as books such as these tend to become heavily discounted as soon as the TV series has run, you can get hold of a copy (even on Amazon!!) for a fraction of its original price!
Go for it!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History through stone,
This review is from: How We Built Britain (Paperback)A fascinating troll through Britain's history via the medium of buildings. Dimbleby's narrative is compelling, spiced with titbits which bring the era of the building to life. It's by no means technical but has enough of the engineering story to enable the reader to empathise with those who built these marvellous edifices. A great read especially in combination with the DVD of the TV series. If you like history, don't miss this one.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Social history through architecture,
This review is from: How We Built Britain (Hardcover)David Dimbleby's book takes the reader on a guided tour of British architectural history. A special section is dedicated to Scotland, which will delight many who are so often disappointed by the exclusively English look on things British.
Speckled with anecdote, the book touches on many interesting details about everyday life that most regular history books pass over, because they are not relevant to the course of history.
Dimbleby avoids some of the most obvious buildings and locations, so you will not find Canterbury or York, but Ely Cathedral instead, not the Tower of London but Hedingham Castle, not the Houses of Parliament but Liverpool's St. George's Hall and Manchester's Town Hall.
Nor is the book exclusively concerned with regal buildings: the humble Scottish blackhouses and postwar prefab dwellings stand next to the grand Hardwick Hall and Blenheim Palace.
The book digs not very deep, how could it with 73 items crammed in 260 (well illustrated) pages and it is certainly not a dry technical exposé filled with jargon, but rather a readable, very informative and entertaining tome, both when read from cover to cover or just when browsed through.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great writing,
This review is from: How We Built Britain (Hardcover)Books about "famous" architecture and building can be a bit samey after a while. David Dimblely's ability to relate the chosen subject buildings to his own experience and the wider historical/social context in a coherent manner makes this book really stand out.
Well, I have learnt a lot from this book (which incidentally does not feel "dense" at all)! Highly recommend it.
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How We Built Britain by David Dimbleby (Hardcover - 4 Jun 2007)
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