Top critical review
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An interesting read but could have been so much better...
on 27 May 2014
This is an interesting book - no doubt about that & I'm in agreement with a lot of the other reviewers about the plus points so I'm not going to dwell on those.
What struck me though, was what it left out. Whilst there was a listing of various papers, articles & journals in the rear of the book, there was no index. Which meant in order to find a point (or plant) I'd already read or one which I wanted to read/know if the book contained, I had to refer to the more basic chapter headings at the front, with the not-always-clear titles about what the chapter was about, such as "don't look now" & "deadly dinner" to name just two.
Further, whilst I realise that this book has no colour to speak of (save for the rather attractive green hard cover, the sepia-tinged pages & the black line drawings), it would be undoubtedly challenging to identify any of the plants discussed - at least with any degree of certainty. Line drawings in other guides tend to list specific information about descriptive plant characteristics so that an accurate identification might be made.
Dipping into the book at random, I started by looking up on the Net the various plants to see them in "glorious Technicolor" as it were. The stinging tree for example "Dendrocnide moriodes" has quite a following on YouTube, but as is often the case, the facts start to merge with the myths. "Simply brushing up against the plant results in unbearable pain that may last up to a year" says Amy Stewart (the author) & yet there's a video of a chap deliberately stinging his hand & videoing the result. The consensus on the Web suggests that pain for up to 6 months or so is a more realistic outcome than the year quoted in this book & the reason I discovered, is due to the fact that the hairs which easily penetrate the skin are hollow - allowing air temperature fluctuations to cause the painful sensations (in addition to the "virulent neurotoxin" that is injected initially, that is).
So - this book isn't really for the budding botanist with more than a passing interest in the more racy (wicked?) plants - I would suggest it's more of a coffee-table tome than anything approaching an academic study.
Which in my opinion, is a shame, because I believe it could have encompassed both camps rather nicely. Whether my opinions are addressed in subsequent editions, remains to be seen.
Finally, a personal bugbear was the way little snippets of prose were copied word-for-word & placed on an otherwise blank bit of the page with a squiggly line below, as if they were supplying a unique gem of further information. Anyone reading the text clearly has to learn to ignore these parts, as they merely repeat what the reader has already read. If they had been a relevant but different comment/aspect/poem/quote etc. than that already included, perhaps quoted verbatim from some attributed source, then yes - I would both welcome & applaud their use.
Perhaps I'm being overly critical & I apologise for this. But in my defence, I bought the book, read it & have an opinion about it.
That is all this is :)