Top critical review
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Good overview but no particluar depth
on 22 August 2008
I picked this book up while working out in the Middle East recently. Well, I'd been away for a while and exhausted the local sights so inevitably it was time to become a resident of Starbucks, drinking coffee and reading.
'Brunel', I thought - 'now that should be interesting', knowing him as the guy who built Paddington Station, the railway to Bristol and beyond, SS Great Britain, Great Western and Great Eastern and a number of bridges and the East London Line tunnel under the Thames.
Sure enough it's good read but I still only really know him as the guy who built Paddington Station, the railway to Bristol and beyond, SS Great Britain, Great Western and Great Eastern and a number of bridges and the East London Line tunnel under the Thames, without a great deal more detail than before.
The book itself is presented neatly into eight sections, which cover his early life working with his father, his connections to Bristol, family life, his work on Railways, bridges, shipbuilding, his office set up and Staff, and his legacy and is written in an acessible way which doesn't bend the readers mind with too much in the way of engineering detail.
However, the format might be the downfall of the book as it takes away any sense of chronology (though a section is provided at the back to make up for this). Added to this, there is no real sense of biography and the story telling lacks any real detail and considering the trials of getting Great Eastern built (which I should think would fill a book on it's own) this is rather disappointing.
But maybe that's the book's downfall... there's just too much to tell in under 200 pages of fairly large text!
Anyway, the book comes recommended as a decent overview of what Brunel acheived but if it catches your imagination (and admittedly, it's caught mine) expect to look for the real detail elsewhere.