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Huge volume of detail, which can leave you feeling drowned
on 4 April 2015
Given how well-reviewed the book is, I was expecting something brilliant, but for me this book just didn't work. Why? Because it has so much detail in chronological order without that much analysis of wider trends or explorations of the bigger factors behind the day by day, year by year narrative.
It's got a tremendous amount of well researched detail, presented at a fairly intense tempo of names, battles, deaths and the like. Each individual retelling of an event is pretty good, but the overall effect is to drown the reader (or at least me) in more and more names, battles, deaths and more, making it hard to spot the bigger forces at work or to sort out the different pieces of the narrative into a clearer set of themes.
The relentless narrative makes clear, for example, how often political power was dependent on the health of particular individuals, disappearing when they died, but the reasons why more power didn't rest with organisations or families that could persist beyond the one death never gets much explanation. You'll end up knowing a lot about who and when, but rather less of the why.