Thursday, 26 April 2012

Book Review: A Short History of the World, by H.G. Wells

This one took me a flippin' long time to read, partly because I was reading three other books at the same time (this was my aeroplane book which I, predictably, picked up at the airport one day in my travels) and partly because it is interesting enough but heavy on the detail. Suffice it to say that I am glad that the chapters are short. Paradoxically, however, that might be why it took me so long to read - because I rarely read more than one chapter at a time, and the chapters are so short.

I have nothing particularly noteworthy to say about the book. It steps through people and places in history that I have never heard of. I do wonder whether that is related to the fact that it was written in 1922 in England, and one presumes the History syllabus back then was somewhat different to mid-nineties Australia.

I feel that in many instances it skipped over things too much and gave too much apparently inane detail, which overwhelmed me.  I was hoping that by reading it I would become absorbed enough to permanently learn something; to become an ancient history trivia champion, if you will; but nothing lodged in my brain. I learnt more from Rings of Saturn than from this book, and that surprised me because Rings of Saturn was more of a memoir than a history book.

I am sure that if you are a history buff and already have a degree of familiarity with some of the events depicted within the book, that it will flow well and simply be like putting a puzzle together.  It wasn't that the narrative tone was too old-fashioned either, because I am well acquainted with Victorian fiction. No, I'm just no history buff, and this book simply wasn't my style. The saving grace for me was that the author did a good job of commenting on various events as though he was literally having a conversation with the reader.

If you want to get a taste of it you can click on various sections here.

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