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Fine if you're already an expert ...
on 4 December 2014
Not for the first time, the difference between Schama the TV presenter and Schama the historian is laid bare. Frankly I prefer the former. This book is full of dense thickets of facts and anecdotal detail but is all but unreadable. I find his prose style florid and self-indulgent. It is full of contemporary observations but there is no sense of a coherent narrative. He keeps skitting about: "so-and-so said in 1644 ... a view repudiated in 1647 when ... just as, ten years earlier, so-and-so commented ... " you lose any sense of whereabouts in time you are, or who's views you are reading, or why you should care. OK, history isn't a coherent narrative but that's what I want the historian to make of it! The book is lavishly illustrated, but, in the paperback edition, in black and white; reasonalbe enough for a small engraving or pamphlet, but reducing an entire painted ceiling to a two-inch grey-and-white square seems pretty pointless.