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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the wait, 17 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Beyond the Reach of Empire: Wolseley's Failed Campaign to Save Gordon and Khartoum (Hardcover)
I've been an avid reader of Col. Snook's for some time (How Can Man Die Better, Go Strong Into the Desert, Great Military Disasters, Like Wolves on the Fold) and have watched this title's release date change several times and was thrilled when it was published. I have to admit only being about 25% through the book but it is once again, a pleasure to read.

Col. Snook has used (exclusively, as far as I've read) original, contemporary sources, quoting extensively from journal's, telegrams and official documents (one journal in particular receives its first light of day since the time of the Sudan campaign and I received a frisson as Col. Snook described turning the pages and finding sand still trapped between the pages - okay, yes, I'm a history geek and no, I won't say whose it was as I don't want to spoil that same pleasure for others). The history is laid out in chronological order with the personages introduced as they enter the action. There are several excellent maps and plates.

This work clearly took much time and on-site research to produce and is the perfect, in-depth read for anyone who wants to delve into the effort to rescue Gordon from Khartoum. For me, the numerous original sources and Col. Snook's writing style make this a joy to read, allowing me to balance what was written at the time by the various members of the military and government with insights and hindsights to place them in the larger perspective, something not available, obviously, to the correspondents at the time.

If I have any mild suggestions or comments that could be construed as, well, less than laudatory it would be the size of some of the photos or maps. I was grossly spoiled by the large, full color treatment of graphics that was provided by "Go Strong Into the Desert" which covers a different portion of the history of the British and Egyptians in the Sudan and the graphical presentation of Beyond the Reach of Empire is a bit less impressive. Now, in all fairness, the aim of the two works is different and the audience may be as well but at least two of the photos in this book are also presented in "Go Strong" (Fred Burnaby's cairn, the rock wall at Abu Klea) and the visual impact is much reduced by the publisher's decision to "go small" in this book. Rest assured, the impact of seeing the cairn and the still-extant rock wall are there but, having been spoiled by the large, full color images in "Go Strong", the smaller, black and white presentation here pale in comparison (no pun intended).

However, that is a very, very minor comment about the parsley in the gravy compared to the substantive meat of this work.

Man-crush warning - I love this book, I recommend it to anyone who is, or knows someone interested in history, and I follow Col. Snook's works closely. I will buy anything he publishes, his work is that good. Hello publishers! It would also be wonderful if either Col. Snook or his publishers could make available via the web any images or graphics that they were unable to include in this work. I understand that there may be copyright issues but for many of us who will never get a chance to visit the Sudan, having access to supplementary information that had to be edited out would be a wonderful thing.

What is presented in this book is a definitive exploration of the events surrounding Gordon's efforts in the Sudan that will serve as a jumping off point for many lively discussions. I caveat again that I have not finished reading this but am confident that the remainder of the work will be just as impressive as the portion I have read. The comprehensive first-hand accounts provided (and copious notes) makes this feel more like a serialization of "what happens next" vice a dry recitation of facts (i.e. on this date he went there and then he want here).

Highly recommended!!
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