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Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain Hardcover – 25 Jul 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; New Edition edition (25 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224090895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224090896
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.9 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 62,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Wonderfully written and full of unexpected facts. Higgins brings Roman Britain into the present." (Richard Sennett)

"Beautifully crafted… The beauty of this book is not just in the elegant prose and the precision with which she skewers her myths. It is in the sympathy that she shows for the myth-makers, the men and woman who so very much wanted their very own Roman Britain." (Peter Stothard The Times)

"Mesmerising… Sophisticated and passionate. She personalizes the story in a diaristic, almost poetic tone…her prose reminds me at times of W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn…similarly haunted by a sense of a past slipping away." (Tim Whitmarsh Guardian)

"Smart and up-to-date, sensitive but hard-headed, impeccably researched but gloriously poetic. The layering of themes, moods and topics is staggering. There's nothing like quite it." (Tom Holland, author of 'Rubicon' and 'Persian Fire')

"Under Another Sky should be on every shelf in the UK. Part travelogue, part handbook and part revisionist history, it is a personal and vivid encounter with landscapes, artefacts and people… Beautifully considered and written." (Ruth Padel New Statesman)

Book Description

A journey around the archeological and cultural remains of Roman Britain by the award-winning author of It’s All Greek to Me.Shortlisted for the 2013 Samuel Johnson Prize and the Thwaites Wainwright Prize.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are a lot of books and TV programmmes at the moment about the ancient world, and so any new book needs to bring something new to the mix. Charlotte Higgins provides a very personal account of her visits to different corners of Britain, and with a journalist's eye captures the experience of seeing them for the first time and talking to experts about how they came about.

As a Classics graduate, she knows her stuff and is well infomred. But the journalist in her is able to distil the infomration into a very readable account.

For those readers inspired to follow in her footsteps, there is plenty of information in the suffix of the book, providing her sources and also how to get to each of the sites she mentions.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author uses her travels around Roman remains in Britain to bring together a historical account of the years the Romans were here (starting in Deal with Julius Caesar's inconclusive invasions) and ending with the last Roman remains (Mildenhall hoard and so on) before the end of Roman Britain in 408AD. As she goes she bring together the stories of scholars who have played a critical role in unearthing and interpreting the historical record (Mortimer Wheeler, RG Collingwood, and living scholars of today who interpret Vindolanda tablets) and a more general account of what it is like in the places where there are Roman remains (so Bath through the ages, briefly, and so on - it hasn't always flourished as it does today). She also covers the place that Roman remains have had in cultural life, commissioning new music for a theme written by Benjamin Britten to verses of WH Auden pre-war, a blues about the Romans in Britain, Roman Wall Blues. And talks to, for example, freelance Roman centurions...

This sounds like a winning combination and clearly many readers have found it so. I found it less satisfying than I had anticipated. Perhaps there's just not quite enough left of Roman remains to make this really interesting (the black and white illustrations may not do them justice?); or not quite a vivid enough sense of Roman culture emergent - though the book did make me think - Romans, for instance, not being Italians from Rome, but free men from anywhere in the Empire and people who served in Britain came from all over, and the precise nature of Hadrian's Wall with fortified gatehouses every mile along the route, ie perhaps it wasn't really meant to keep out invasions.

I suspect the chapter at the back saying what there is to see and where, and how to see it (book B&B in advance for six nights if you are walking Hadrian's Wall) is a very helpful guide - but I haven't used it as such!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Charlotte Higgins writes from the heart, with superb, scholarly insight and confidence. Her book was such a pleasure to read, exciting, funny, awe-inspiring and humbling.
As a young man, I had the great good fortune to spend a long summer in Britain and was encouraged by my host family in Marlborough to explore. I was working full-time but, with the audacity of the young, I hitchhiked all over. I saw the standing stones at Avebury and Stonehenge and explored Bath and the highlands of Scotland. How moving it was to read of some of these same places in Ms. Higgins' book.
"Oh, to be in England ... " indeed! Alas, air fares are not what they were then! Still, with books like "Under Another Sky" it is almost, _almost_ as extraordinary as being there.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a good popular study of what Roman Britain has - and does - mean to various people across time. Higgins has a Classics BA and is a journalist so this is intelligent without being academic or scholarly. Setting out her stall upfront, Higgins sets out to show how `Britain' has always been a constructed idea for the Romans (e.g. Catullus' ultimosque Brittanos, `the most remote Britons', c.11), just as `Roman Britain' is for us, as well as being both a chronological and physical location.

Travelling around the UK to various Roman sites (London, Bath, Scotland, Norfolk etc.) this is an expansive narrative that dips in and out of being a travelogue, a history, an archaeological guide and more.

Higgins is a witty and interesting companion on this journey and writes well in a style which is easy to read without compromising on accuracy - fluent and fascinating, this is a book crying out for a TV series.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It doesn't pretend to be an exhaustive gazetteer of the sites to be found all over the country, or an in-depth history of Roman Britain, which some of the more negative reviewers seem to have been expecting. But it casts a bright spotlight on some more obscure places, some of which I'd never heard of, and some of which - Vindolanda, Bath, Silchester - have become famous. I found the story of how each era has interpreted Roman Britain in its own image, to bolster its own prejudices, as fascinating as the details of how the sites were originally discovered and excavated, with some interesting sidelights on well-known archaeologists. Finally, the losses over the years, particularly in the eighteenth and even the nineteenth centuries, of mosaics casually broken up, buildings demolished for their stone, treasure hidden, is both tragic and an appalling indictment of greed, thoughtlessness and ignorance. My one complaint is the lack of good photographs - the ones embedded in the text are dark and unclear. It would have benefited from some clear colour images, particularly of the mosaics, which are beautifully described but, apart from a couple, not illustrated.
And even if Ms Higgins hadn't produced a well-written, entertaining overview of Roman Britain and what it has meant to us down the ages, her obvious love for the novels of Rosemary Sutcliff, particularly my own childhood favourite The Eagle of the Ninth, would make it worthy of an extra star.
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