Top critical review
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Advice to the reader
on 24 June 2017
Before I get to the problems, this is a masterpiece of compact historical writing. The prose is neat, the research is prodigious, the detail is amazing and it is packed with quotes from primary sources, with extracts woven into the text in every paragraph. Above all it gives a vivid feel for the fighting, the horror, the suffering, individual reactions, and the conditions including climate, food, clothes and transport. He gives good space to the plight of the wives, how they coped and how they suffered. He also gives an excellent introduction to life and attitudes in the colony leading up to the mutiny.
The weakness is that the book gives no strategic perspective of the war, no big picture. The focus on the detail was so close that throughout the book I had no idea where was the front, if there was a front, and if there wasn't, which parts of the country were in whose hands. The single appalling map was so small and unclear, I had no feel for where the battles took place relative to each other and how the troops were distributed, and was often frustrated by detailed references to the geography of a battle which the reader could not possibly appreciate unless he or she referred constantly to a historical map.
I would therefore recommend studying the overall course of the war on wikipedia or another book, then reading this one with a good series of maps open at the same time. Of course it's not the book's fault that at the time it was printed better maps could not have been including economically, so please take my rating as applying to the reading experience, not to the skill and work of the author.