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Stonehenge Paperback – 25 Jun 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books; Main edition (25 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861978804
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861978806
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 286,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

Her book is a treasure: stylish, thoughtful, miraculously condensed, and as full of knowledge as megalith is full of megalith (Sunday Times)

She brings genuine originality to the cultural history of Stonehenge; nobody has until now considered it as literature, poetry and art, in this comprehensive way (Times Literary Supplement)

A fascinating overview (Time Out)

This is a fascinating account of how Stonehenge has been written up over the years ... this is a thoroughly researched history that's both entertaining and authoritative (Lesley McDowell Independent on Sunday 2009-06-14)

Clear, intelligent and often highly amusing, this study achieves something new in the voluminous literature on Stonehenge ... excellent. (Christopher Hirst Independent 2009-06-26)

Intelligent and often witty ... refreshingly unmocking. (Andrew Holgate Sunday Times 2009-06-21)

A thorough examination of England's most captivating World Heritage Site. (Julian Fleming Sunday Business Post 2009-07-05)

Superbly researched and thoroughly entertaining account of the monument's history (Simon Shaw Mail on Sunday 2009-08-16)

Review

`Clear, intelligent and often highly amusing, this study achieves something new in the voluminous literature on Stonehenge.... excellent.'

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After describing, at the start, where Stonehenge is and who owns it, the author says "At this point we come, almost, to the end of the uncontested facts". So she concentrates instead on how Stonehenge and its 'meaning' have been argued over, and even fought over, across the centuries. How it's been taken a symbol of authentic Britishness - or of Roman, Danish, Phoenician, Mycenaean or space-god influence. How its dating has kept changing (and still is); its enduring associations with King Arthur, Druidry, The Wicker Man and astronomy; and its fascination not only for antiquarians and academics but also for the counterculture, the Earth Mysteries movement, and ordinary tourists.

The book does look at the archaeology: the three-phase building (with the sarcen stones now dated to about 2580-2470 BC), and the enduring puzzle of how the bluestones could have been brought to the site from Wales. And it reminds us that it's not an isolated monument, but is part of a whole network of earthworks in the area - including its equally mysterious wooden counterpart, Durrington Walls.

What becomes really clear though, is how influential Stonehenge has been on British culture. Over time, people have thought it a temple, an observatory, a hospital or spa, a monument to ancestor-worship, a royal burial ground, or even Stone Age sculpture. It's featured in the arts from Wordsworth to Spinal Tap via Thomas Hardy and Barbara Hepworth. It has inspired strange follies, and influenced unlikely areas of British architecture from Bath to Covent Garden to Milton Keynes. Finally the book reviews how the solstice has been celebrated there on and off since the 1870s with the Free Festivals, the Battle of the Beanfield, and the current 'open access'.
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Format: Paperback
Hill opens her book by stating that there are very few uncontested facts when it comes to Stonehenge, and this is less an account of Stonehenge's origins and purpose, than a history of how it has been viewed, received, and treated through the centuries. The chapters cover 17th and 18th-century antiquaries, architects such as Inigo Jones and John Wood, romantic artists and writers, Victorian geologists and archaeologists, and 20-century day-trippers and new-agers, ending with an overview of the present debate over what is to be done with the monument.

This all adds up to a comprehensive and entertaining survey. Various characters are introduced, each having their own (often bonkers) theory as to who built Stonehenge and for what purpose. These people were often eccentrics and Hill describes them wittily, for example there is Jens Jacob Worsaae, an archaeologist who 'on his more important excavations..liked to be accompanied by a brass band', and the polymath John Lubbock who spent three months trying to teach his poodle to read 'without success'.

The Druids, despite having nothing to do with the origins of Stonehenge, since the 17th-century have been a constant companion to the monument. They form a thread running through Stonehenge's story and Hill wryly describes their fortunes over time. Her deadpan style is often hilarious such as in the following description of the Edwardian magazine 'The Druid':

"It carried advertisements of interest to readers in search of a 'Druidic Haircut and shave', a Druid convalescent home or a bona fide sample of magic cork.
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Format: Paperback
This is a first class little book, combining thoroughness and erudition with clarity and understated humour. It describes the whole history of the study of Stonehenge - from the 17th century onwards - lucidly and economically. Much to be recommended.
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This isn't a book that gets to grips with all the truly interesting things about Stonehenge. In fact the title of the book, Stonehenge, is a bit of a misnomer since Stonehenge only seems to be a running theme rather than the subject of the book. If you're looking for a book that explores the meaning of Stonehenge, why it was built, how it was built, how it is aligned with the sun, moon and stars, this book is not the one you want. This is really a book of the history of Antiquary and Archeology and how Stonehenge has been (mis)interpreted through the ages.

It is not an entirely uninteresting book but it told me very little about the things I am truly interested in.
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This is history told through Stonehenge, utterly compelling, full of out of the way facts, and very funny indeed. It is part of the Wonders of the World Series whose aim "is to get something much more enlightening, stimulating, even controversial, than straightforward histories or guides". Stonehenge achieves exactly that. Highly recommended.
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Nice book which bundles many of the theories and some history. Well worth reading if you are going to visit Stonehenge (which I would recommend, although I found it a little underwhelming). It is not very up to date, so reading some more modern book might be advisable.
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