5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Surprised by how much I enjoyed this.,
This review is from: How We Built Britain (Paperback)
Not my usual choice isn't this. History. (Along with science, art, antiques, gardening and anything with Julia Bradbury's ulcer-inducing enthusiasm in it) my usual reaction to such matter is to retreat discretely into the the reclusive safety net of lazyboy, coffee and QI. Perhaps I'm getting old, perhaps I'm becoming cultured, perhaps this time next year I'll be choking on a briar pipe and remembering the good old days when I used to have fun. Who knows?
I found this cheap in a high street store. I haven't seen the series, and didn't really know whether I'd end up reading it all or simply skimming it and (being as though I'm a bloke) just looking at the photos. The book starts in Norman Britain and leads to the present day (I found this a little disappointing; even a historical pleb like me knows the Roman's and Saxon's lived in buildings, why weren't they included?) Oh well. There are six chapters, each covering a different era (Medieval Britain, The Tudors and The Stuarts, Scotland, The Georgians, The Victorians and Modern Britain). Each chapter covers around ten buildings and each building covers around 2-3 pages, so the book is perfect (for a braindead simpleton like me) for dipping in and out of. Throughout there are beautiful photographs that often highlight the stories being told. There are also several pages at the close of each chapter filled with interesting (period) paintings and illustrations of other important buildings of that age, along with brief descriptions.
The buildings covered are varied and well chosen (from obvious choices like Ely and Belnhiem, to less obvious, though equally interesting, entries such as Stourhead -- a Georgian lake in Wiltshire surrounded by mock Roman temples); and there are fascinating stories and history behind them all. Dimbleby, himself, is an illuminating writer, and has a laid back and amusing style that is perfect for this kind of book. Nothing is really serious, he seems more interested in coming up with a quirky story about the social history or building of the place than giving a stagnant chronicle of it. It's like listening to him on a autumn afternoon with a glass of Guinness. A warm and natural approach that brings the history alive.
I was surprised by how easy I found this book to read; I didn't find it at all stale or boring. I've already ordered his new book (and a set of Virginia samplers), and am looking forward to reading more of his thoughts.