8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Genuinely and comprehensively brilliant,
This review is from: The German Genius: Europe's Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution and the Twentieth Century (Hardcover)
At 850 pages, this hefty book could appear pretty daunting, but to think that would be to do it a disservice. Watson's book pulls off the ultimate publishing trick - to be astonishingly comprehensive, while being engagingly reading. So, whilst he writes about German culture from 1750 onwards, no individual section is longer than about 5 pages and very often, much less, keeping the book both readable as a whole and ideal as a dipped-into reference book. Of course all the big names are covered; Goethe, Schiller, Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Einstein, but Watson's range is comprehensive, drawing in less obvious names like Fritz Lang (director), Werner Siemens (inventor and entrepeneur), Alexander von Humboldt (explorer and anthropologist), Samuel Hahneman (doctor and founder of homeopathy), E.T.A. Hoffman (musical writer), Heinrich Heine (poet) among literally hundreds and hundreds of others (as the additional 100+ pages of notes and index indicate).
Having studied German over many years, lived and travelled there, I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about Germany as a country and its cultural history. Although Watson writes that his aim in writing this book was to enable Britons to think about more than just the '12 year Nazi dictatorship' when they thought about Germany, he brings so much more to this book. If you are one of those who just thinks Germany equates to Nazi, then this is a book to astonish and enlighten you. If however you think that you're pretty well informed about the powerhouse of Europe, then let this book illuminate the broad range of German influence, shaping everything from the nature of University study to modern industry and politics and how that influence is felt both in Germany and right across the world.
I would recommend this book both as a history book you can't put down, full of surprising revelations and names, but also as a reference book to look up a particular subject, person or era. It's just a great book - all I would additionally advise is to have some glue to hand as my hardback binding simply struggled with a book of this size and I had to carry out some repairs mid-read!