24 September 2007


Reading is something we all do; in fact it is oxygen of life, for without it our brains would simply dry up or become polluted by the mind-rotting junk spewed out every day by our television sets. Yet, though the books we have read can be counted in the thousand, they disappear into the ever-more-difficult-to-access recesses of the brain.

One task I find useful to keep reading in focus is to write a short ‘review’ of each book that I finish. My rule is to spend no more than five minutes on this task, so my ‘reviews’ are hardly intellectual comments, but they do form a point a reference long after the book is back on the shelf. I also find myself mentally composing my comments as I read the book.

Here is my comment for the following book.

WILSON, A. N. – After the Victorians

Arrow 2006

Read September 2007

This book is a hefty read and an interesting one. In this extremely well written book Wilson sets out to examine key themes in British society and politics in the years from the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 up to the coronation of Elizabeth in 1953. The subtitle of the work is ‘the world our parents knew’

Wilson’s choice of topics is eclectic – in fact, the book could almost be seen as a collection of essays - but it is always interesting. The dominant theme of the work is the loss of empire which gives the book a superficial right-wing feel, especially when you learn that his father was a special constable during the 1926 General Strike. Yet, Wilson comes across very much as a ‘neutral;’ he takes a vast array of evidence of sustain or dismiss the prevailing ideas of the twentieth century.

His approach is to take a contemporary story (e.g. Laurel and Hardy in the case of Churchill’s relations with Roosevelt) extract a point and then consolidate the point with historical facts and anecdotes.

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