4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Dip in and out,
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This review is from: Brief Lives (Hardcover)
I had read a couple of enthusiastic pre-publication reviews which induced me to seek this book out the minute it was published ... all those titbits of gossip in the extracts made me expect a "grown-ups'" 'Horrible History' of the 20th Century, which I would thoroughly enjoy and get through in a couple of days at most. I was quite taken aback when it arrived to discover that the sketches of people (as Johnson says, 'some are mere glances, others attempts to pluck out the mystery'), are presented in alphabetical order, like a sort of encyclopaedia, rather than woven into one (probably impossible)in chronological order, or some other by-category way.
Once I had overcome this surprise, I find the portraits original, in some cases witty, full of titbits and quirky observations on appearance, mannerisms, or simply anecdotes one wouldn't find elsewhere.
I still haven't anything like finished reading the book. Because of the disjointed nature of the alphabetical order, it is in no way a page-turner, and it lies beside my bed for dipping in and out of. And taking on short journeys. It is a 'different' experience, reading about one name leads to looking up another (sometimes to be found, others not, of course). So it is more like browsing the Internet and jumping from one subject to another in a totally individual way. An enjoyable experience and I look forward to my next slightly longer trip, when I expect to manage far more of it!