14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 29 September 2008
This is a first hand account of the seige of Malta by an ordinary knight who lived through it. As such, it tells the story in a clear, immediate, plain but lively manner. It was something of a publishing success at the time when it was written, and has always remained popular, both as a good read, and as a reliable historical account. The translator, Ernle Bradford, or an editor, has added just enough background comments to the text, to give a modern reader enough information to fill in what would have been common knowledge to readers at the time.
There might be better texts for a modern reader to get an overview of the political and diplomatic causes and consequences of the seige of Malta, but this will give you perhaps the best and most gripping account of how the seige progressed, and wonderfully immediate feel of how people there at the time felt and thought.
The seige itself is an incredible story of courage and fortitude, and of victory against seemingly overwhelming odds. Balbi's unsophisticated style brings out the astounding drama of the events, as well as being frequently intensely poignant when describing the suffering and loss of life he was a personal witness to. The translation flows well, and it is a gripping read, even after all these centuries.
On top of the human story, the technology plays an important part. Both sides used very innovative technology, and implemented extraordinary technical improvisations during the seige. Balbi is rightly very proud of the technical successes the Knights and the Maltese came up with. There is a very strong feeling of Renaissance progress and innovation in the tale.
This translation also comes with all the original illustrations, with the original key to them, showing several panoramic overviews of the progress of the seige. In addition, the modern editors have added a large number of more modern-style maps and diagrams that help make sense of the action and course of events. These are all useful, but it is interesting that as regards the layout of the crucial fortress of St. Elmo, the modern diagrams and the original pictures differ from each other, and both differ from Roger Crowley's description of the fortress in 'Empires of the Sea'.
This is the book to get for a dramatic account of the events of the seige itself, or if you want an immediate account of the battles and the tactics. For a broader, more complete account of the event in context, you might prefer a more general history-book account of it, but even then, this would be a very useful addition.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
This is a first hand account of the siege of Malta in 1565 , one of the most heroic battles ever fought and won facing overwhelming odds.
The author took part , albeit as a foot soldier , in the siege is this a very good translation from Spanish. The book was written a few years after the battle and contains mainly first hand impressions of the siege without too much political debate of the latter editions.
The paperback edition is not great and perhaps it will be better to invest a bit more for the hardback edition. The graphics from the forts help to understand the individual actions.
If one compares this book to Tim Pickles's ( published by osprey ) the latter as much better maps and is superbly illustrated but the former will help the reader to understand in great detail the dramatic actions that took place during the siege.
5 stars ( for Francisco Balbi )
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 26 June 2007
Unbelievable account; to read what these people went through, their mentality and attitude to the horrors around them is truly something. The account is very readable and in great detail, a true historical classic.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 30 March 2014
Very few books have been written in English about the Siege of Malta. This translation of Balbi's first hand account is a must for anyone who has ever visited Malta and fallen for the place ( as I have!). Its an amazing story and an excellent job by Bradford in translating it into an easy read.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 4 July 2009
The Great Siege is one of history's major epics. The narative is Bradford's translation and comes out quite like his own writing style. But the detail is king and this book is a great companion to the Bradford's own. If you've lived in Malta for a while, you've had time to absorb the scenario even though much of the stonework has subsequently been replaced after WW II bomb damage. A really good book!