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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
I enjoy Simon Schama's work very much. I loved his series on The Power of Art, and the book that went with it, and was utterly engrossed in his book on the French Revolution. This however, was an entirely different kettle of fish. In this book about our connection as a people with the landscape that surrounds us, our almost genetically coded ideas about the wilderness and our relationship with the land at an environmental, spiritual and national level I really struggled to connect with the material.

Half the problem was the massive weight of the book. It took me weeks to finish as it was a hardback, large format book coming in at nearly 900 pages, and was just far too big for me to carry around, as I do most books I am reading. This meant that I was confined to reading at home, preferably with a table underneath it to support its substantial weight.

The rest of my difficulties came from the fact that I struggled to find a coherent narrative which held the book together. There was definitely a coherent argument and set of ideas underpinning the material, but the sections of the book were not laid out particularly sympathetically to the reader struggling to find their way through the huge quantities of materials, sources, illustrations and notes.

There were some sections I enjoyed more than others. The section on the Anglo Saxon forests and their appropriation and abuse by the Norman aristocracy were fascinating, as was the section on the romantic idea of the mountains and the gradual touristification of the French Alps and Pyrenees. I struggled more with the sections on the Germanic walds and the American relationship with the wilderness, perhaps because I came to these areas with less prior knowledge of them.

The whole book was scholarly, erudite and lucid, but for me overwhelming as a book to try and read for pleasure. As a text book I imagine it is more useful, or for those with a good framework of existing knowledge on which to hang the material Schama offers in such quantities.
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70 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on 7 December 1999
In a wide sweep of history that encompassess as unlikely a set of figures as Varus, a Roman general responsible for a catastrophic lost battle in the Black Forest and a 19th century French founder of the concept of "eco-rambling", Simon Schama has produced a stunning work that seeks to answer the central question: is our view of nature ruled by the mind, or by magical human interpretations? Woven into this rich,scholarly tapestry of ideas we meet the man who carved Mt. Rushmore and Hermann Goering. How are these people's ideas linked (or not) to Thoreau is just one of the questions answered by Schama.
There are few books that could match this pyrotechnic display of learning and exposition of aesthetic views of nature that have shaped warfare,politics,religion and modern ecology. It is impossible to view today's environmentalism before reading this provocative and insightful book the same way as when one puts it down.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 October 2010
This book attempts something so subtle, yet so huge, that it daunts the imagination. Schama looks, in dizzying depth, at the way we exist in the natural world; not through technology, or maps, or as something outside nature acting upon it, but at how our minds and culture are shaped by our experience of the outside and of the natural.

Undoubtedly it is a heavy book, both literally and metaphorically, but it is all "gist". The text is full of wonderful stuff and repays reading slowly and with pauses for consideration. I would hate to have to read this against the clock for study.

"Landscape and Memory" will not appeal to everyone who enjoys Schama's work. It has little to do with traditional "kings and wars" history, and feeds into the study of art at a level so fundamental that many art students won't "get" it. It is most likely to be appreciated by landscape painters, anthropologists, philosophers and cultural historians, especially any with cross-disciplinary interests.

Despite its difficulties, this is a masterpiece. It will change to way you see the world and its effect on the mind will linger long after you have read it. Don't expect to take it on holiday as an erudite alternative to the latest best seller; it needs longer than that and deserves it.

If you have read this, and enjoyed it, I think you will "get" 18 Folgate Street: The Tale of a House in Spitalfields which, though it has a very different subject matter, is related in the way it looks at the world. You could also check out the work of W. G. Sebald
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
THis is an odd and remarkable book, a tour of history that mixes art criticism, economic analysis, and even gastronomy. It moves between so many subjects - from a German artist parodying Hitler's siegheil to empty fields, Hasidim logging in the woods of Poland dressed in their customary suits, to the Baroque fountains in French parks - that it is impossible to summarise his message, except to say that we Westerners have a changing relationship with forest, rock, and water.

I was dazzled by Schama's erudition and mastery of language, as he moved from making connections between Egyptian mythology and the fountains of Rome, or the myth of Robin Hood and rustic Englsh eccentrics of the 19C. This is a book that enhances one's experience, particularly if you live in EUrope and every day walk by the things that he describes. For example, I read it while we were living on the edge of Fontainebleau forest, in France, and inside the back cover of the book, I found a map of the forest that included our village of 600! To my astonishment, I then went on to read that Fontainebleau was apparently the first forest to have marked paths for hikers who visit from industrial cities, a method pioneered by a somewhat loopy bonapartist who had retired to the area, and whom the local authorities watched with suspicion in mid 19C. For anyone who loves hiking or sitting outside, you will find sections like that that speak to you, that are illuminating in a quirky personal way.

However, while these passages are wonderful and fun, for me they did not add up to much of anything beyond anecdotes. I enjoyed the facts, as a kind of entertainment that passed by as I read on, but they failed to coalesce into any deeper insights. In that sense, the book came up short for me, though many of the tidbits were indeed delicious. Rather than traditional history, this book is a huge and sprawling essay, like on of those old-style New Yorker articles that went on and on and on, until the point seems lost in detail.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2013
I expected this soft cover edition to be the same as the hard back but the plates are black and white- if I had known that, I would not have made my purchase
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Everything is 'going' for Landscape and Memory. Contradicting the claim that traditional books are on the verge of being totally superseded by E books, Simon Schama's book is an absolute treasure of a book. Not only is Landscape and Memory brilliantly written by a hugely admired historian, it is also a thing of beauty. Primarily this is a book lovers book, with its absolutely gorgeous illustrations, many of them in full colour, and the quality of its paper, making the turning of each page a sensual delight. This is the kind of book that captivates with every turn of every page, and, no matter how much I love my e reader, I will always want to pick up, fondle, and indulge in the truly sensuous act of reading something of beauty.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 22 June 2010
Full of historical information with connections to great artworks and how the artists arrived at their interpretations.
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27 of 63 people found the following review helpful
This is more a collection of interesting stuff than the sort of coherent thing that a book should be. Nevertheless, a lot of the collection of stuff is well worth reading. And Schama is a decent art critic on the side.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Schama's basic thought that we need not think of humanity as destroying or against nature is an admirable one.

It is big, however it is beautifully presented and I felt a little bad attacking it with a highlighter. It is also a badass piece of historical scholership and the argument is bought out by the force of the stories rather than a long polemic. It is re-readable because you will, as I have fall in love with some of these stories and fit them in to scholarship and other historical endevours.
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