Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Learn more Click Here Shop Kindle Learn More Shop now Shop Women's Shop Men's

Customer Review

TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 December 2011
I was troubled by the dilettantish nature of this book which seems to lack a clear aim. For the most part, the text flits about like a butterfly, drawn randomly from one alluring flower to the next.

The best aspect is the full colour photographs of 1930s paintings, in particular John Piper's striking collages of British landscapes. I enjoyed Chapter 1 on artists like John Piper's flirtation with abstract art, until his fascination with landscape won out . As his French contemporary Hélion observed, abstract art was proving to be a system "cracking at the seams....life budding mysteriously though it". This would have made an informative chapter in, say, an analysis of abstract art in British painting, but the next chapter changes tack to the early use of concrete in apartment blocks. It soon sets the book's pattern of being too superficial and lacking in context, for instance, there is no reference to important influences like Le Corbusier, nor to the future wave of brutalist concrete architecture of the 1960s-80s. Instead, Chapter 2 degenerates into scrappy sections on completely different topics, like Victorian pubs, so they are hard to read since they lack a coherent theme.

Thereafter, each chapter stands alone, covering some aspect of English life , mainly from the viewpoint of artists and writers in the 1930s. The wide-ranging topics include views on Victoriana, food, the state of English art in the broadest sense, the weather, village life, landscapes, or the influence of houses on artists, but all covered in a very rambling and disjointed fashion. If you are largely unfamiliar with the references, you are likely to feel overloaded and rather bored. If you have some prior knowledge you may well feel you would like to concentrate more on fewer topics. There is little regard to the social and economic context of this period of dramatic change. The focus is very much on the middle and upper classes living in the countryside or prosperous urban areas.

The chapters cannot even be called essays because they are often broken into shorter sections, further obviating the need for the author to develop a theme properly . For instance, Chapter 10 could have been an intriguing study of the landscape of 1930s Britain as captured by artists for the Shell-Mex advertisements intended to encourage new car-owners to use more petrol. In fact, this aspect is lost in a mass of verbiage with some kind of oblique connection to writing about, sculpting with regard to or drawing landscapes.

I found this book was only readable if I dipped into the odd section of interest. I was left enjoying the illustrations, but very irritated by the unfocused text. I agree with other reviewers who have regretted the lack of an objective and clear-sighted editor.
0Comment| 13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse| Permalink
What's this?

What are product links?

In the text of your review, you can link directly to any product offered on Amazon.com. To insert a product link, follow these steps:
1. Find the product you want to reference on Amazon.com
2. Copy the web address of the product
3. Click Insert product link
4. Paste the web address in the box
5. Click Select
6. Selecting the item displayed will insert text that looks like this: [[ASIN:014312854XHamlet (The Pelican Shakespeare)]]
7. When your review is displayed on Amazon.com, this text will be transformed into a hyperlink, like this:Hamlet (The Pelican Shakespeare)

You are limited to 10 product links in your review, and your link text may not be longer than 256 characters.

Please write at least one word
You must purchase at least one item from Amazon to post a comment
A problem occurred while submitting your comment. Please try again later.

There was a problem loading the comments at the moment. Please try again later.