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4.0 out of 5 stars Parrill: Nelson's Navy in Fiction and Film, 20 Nov 2009
This review is from: Nelson's Navy in Fiction and Film: Depictions of British Sea Power in the Napoleonic Era (Paperback)
Although the stated purpose of this book is to "examine novels and films in English which treat the British Navy during the period of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars," is achieved in spadeloads, the underlying philosophy of the work is unclear; there are no conclusions or reasoned analyses stemming from the mass of information presented. How, for instance does the combined work of hundreds of authors in the genre over the last two hundred years reflect reality (or perceptions of reality)? And how have naval historians supported the work of naval story writers - and vice versa? Parrill does not attempt to answer these two key questions. Here surely is a PhD thesis in the waiting.
As with any wide-ranging work it is easy to be critical and to nit-pick (and there are the occasional typos, including John Sugden's name in the index) but my impression overall is extremely positive, despite my misgivings. This is, after all, an enormous undertaking with very useful author profiles (some quite obscure), an examination of their output and a summary of individual books. If anything is missing, it would be a printing history of each work, as not all first edition dates are noted correctly, eg John Davis's The Post Captain is described as an 1805 work, but in fact it was first published in 1803. I was pleased to see Captain Frederick Marryat confirmed as the `father' of the British sea story and well represented (even though the likes of Davis preceded him); all the 20th century greats are here too like Forester, Kent, O'Brian, Pope and Woodman. Juvenile writing is generally excluded in Parrill's book, a pity as I was brought up on a diet of Arthur Groom, C M Nelson, C H Eden and Gordon Stables, although G A Henty makes an appearance with the only two Nelson orientated books of his vast output. The film section, much smaller, is comprehensively written up from 1918, probably the first time that this has been seriously undertaken and is of great value. The bibliography is considerable, but lacks any references from The Nelson Dispatch which has, over the years, provided useful material on the subject.
This book has much to commend it and is without doubt a most valuable resource, but here's the rub: it's a very expensive paperback, albeit larger than the `trade' size used for fiction that the book itself commemorates. Obviously aimed at libraries, my suggestion is to get it ordered in.

David Shannon
former Editor 'The Nelson Dispatch'
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