32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Why this book is a big disappointment...
, 20 Nov. 2010
This review is from: The Pacific (The Official HBO/Sky TV Tie-In) (Paperback)
Like a lot of my fellow reviewers I am a big fan of Stephen Ambrose, who brought history to life with his slightly off-beat, entertaining yet moving style of writing. I guess also like many of you, I bought those books based on the excellent Band of Brothers mini-series.
So I had high hopes not only of the new mini-series 'Pacific' (it is HBO, after all!) and the book by Hugh Ambrose.
There's something slightly self-indulgent about the mini-series, and there's something VERY self-indulgent about the book. Let me explain what is so very wrong with it...
It's the style of writing. It's difficult to explain, but I've narrowed it down to the following problems:
- The 'bullet-point compendium' problem: it's like Mr Ambrose was doing masses and masses of research, and listed thousands of bullet points of things to include. Then it's as though he just compiled all the bullet points into the main text, with no real attempt to weave it all together. Many sentences are ridiculously short, and there's often a whole string of them just kind of thrown together. It gets very irritating and tedious, almost like a barrage of 'sound-bites'. That leads to the second point...
- The picture postcard style: think of when you send a postcard to your family - you throw a lot of facts down in a small space to cover as much ground as possible. Mr Ambrose does this repeatedly. So we get not only the 'bullet point' style, but a mystifying and confusing overload of detail - detail that's often not really relevant to the topic at hand. I found myself repeatedly thinking "What? - Why on earth is that in there?" What do I mean by this? Well an example might be if someone were describing a really important event in some detail, listing the characters, the situation etc. and it's littered with phrases like "He was a bit hungry so he had a bar of chocolate." Followed quickly by "The washing machine had finished the spin cycle. That's the Model 7000A washing machine, which had been delivered the day before." It's like this all the way through. It drove me potty!
- The lack of emotional narrative. Stephen Ambrose put you in the thick of the action. Hugh Ambrose describes it like he's a robot recalling facts.
BUT, in the interests of objectivity, there are sections of excellent readability. It's like two different people wrote the book. Or (sadly, possibly) that production deadlines forced it to be completed without joining parts of the narrative up properly.
I accept some people may enjoy the style - I guess it's partly about how your brain processes stuff. But it didn't suit my style and I was massively disappointed. I read a lot of historical stuff and I have not read anything quite like this for a long time. Or maybe I've just been too spoiled by Mr Ambrose Snr?
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