Monday, 30 March 2009

History made easy.


If , like me, you are one of those people who love history and love reading about the past, but get bogged down in the erudite tomes that are often hundreds of pages long, can I recommend an easy read?
Bill Bryson's "Shakespeare" has been lent to me by my friend, Glennis. It is a Harper Perennial paperback, under two hundred pages long and a jolly good read as well as being amusing. Bryson may not be very "highbrow" but his writing does carry you along with it. And I have to say that I learned a whole lot about the sixteenth century that I didn't know.
From the outset he makes it quite clear that we know very little about Shakespeare's life - he just gives us various alternative scenarios to choose from. But his writing on the background - about population numbers, illnesses and the like is spot on and very readable.
A lot of what he says we probably already know - but in my case it lay so deep in my memory that I enjoyed being reminded of it. One example is when he reminds you that in those days there was no embankment to the Thames, so that in many places it was very much wider as it flowed through the capital. And had you remembered that at that time Norwich was England's second city?
I do recommend it - it is just the book to sit with under a cherry tree in flower on the lawn - your feet up on the lounger, a drink of some sort (whisky, lemonade, tea - I care not which) in your hand and your mobile switched off. Enjoy!
PS Can I also just say thanks to everyone for the brilliant criticism of my poem - shall rewrite it in the light of your comments and then put it back on my blog later this week. I am truly inspired by the way everyone mucks in and says what they think. Blogging is brilliant!

19 comments:

HelenMHunt said...

This is on my tbr pile. Must get on and read it.

Derrick said...

Morning Weaver,

I shall look out for this. Like you, I think history can make more of an impression if conveyed in a light, humorous way. I really enjoyed Bryson's Notes from a Small Island that I mentioned in a post a while ago.

Woman in a Window said...

The book sounds wonderful but if I pick up the book I want that cherry tree, too, green grass to sit on and my shoes off! Lovely.

BarbaraS said...

Oh I have this lurking somwhere for a good read - thanks for reminding me. Bill Bryson takes the browy stuff and makes it readable and enjoyable - what's wrong with that?

Elizabeth said...

This sounds exactly the book for me.
When I went to the Chelsea Physic Garden last September they reminded us about the Embankment -or lack of it.
I loved their little joke about the big gate on the Embankment only being opened if royalty arrived by barge.....or a really large load of manure....

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I'm catching up on comments today, Weaver, so have just left mine on your poetry post!

The Bill Bryson book sounds interesting. I like the idea of reading it outside under the trees. I shall add it to the contents of my briefcase this summer!

Hildred and Charles said...

Bill Bryson sounds like a man after my own heart, - light and easy.

While on the subject of Shakespeare, Weaver, have you heard of, or give credence to the current controversy over the true authorship of Shakespeare?

Did Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, use Shakespeare as a non de plume???

Rowan said...

Bill Bryson is a favourite of my husband, I've read one or two and quite enjoyed them. Don't think DH has this one so will have to look out for it.

willow said...

Ahh, I can see you under the cherry tree, drink in hand, lost in this book!

Totalfeckineejit said...

I think the drink should definitely be Pimms No 1 cup ,a dash of lemonade, fruit (including lemon) sliced cucumber and some mint served chilled, preferably by a butler. I know very little about anything, but I pride myself on the right drink at the right time-Hic!

Reader Wil said...

Thank you for telling about this book! I like history but, as you said, an easy read. So I might try to buy the book here in my country.Thanks!

Heather said...

I already have about six or seven books waiting to be read, but will add Bill Bryson's to my list. We are being redecorated this week - I hope it doesn't go over into next week - and I'm already beginning to lose track of where I put everything when I cleared the decks for action. How those people cope who have rooms repainted, etc., every couple of years I can't imagine.

The Solitary Walker said...

Afraid I have to part company with you on BB, Weaver - though I did enjoy to some extent the 1st book of his I read (can't remember which one), and laughed a lot, by the time I came to read his 3rd or 4th the smiles were stretching pretty thin as he made the same kind of gags over and over...

The "oh dear me, how useless I am at backpacking" routine" he does to death in his Appalachian Trail book made me vow never to pick him up again!

He writes (very successfully) for a definite market, of course - nothing necessarily wrong with that, I suppose...

... except that I do tire of all those populist & copyist 'humour-travel' writers who try and emulate his method...

I realize I may be stirring up controversy here in Weaverland! Ho, hum...

BT said...

This sounds just my cup of tea Weaver. Must order it.

Teresa said...

Sounds like a very satisfying read... will put that one on my list.

Thanks for sharing!

Mad Bush Farm Crew said...

Weaver I LOVE History. My most treasured book is The Histories by Herodotus (I've probably spelt his name incorrectly!) Shakespeare rates a strong companion. I'll just have to get this book I think. I have really really enjoyed your posts. Sorry it's taken me so long to comment! The landscape is so fantastic and ancient. So much history with so many stories. New Zealand as far as recorded history goes is so so young in comparison and yet we have our own richness.

And I loved your poem and everyones constructive comments

Take care
Liz

The Weaver of Grass said...

Well dear bloggy friends, it looks as though we shall all have to gang up on Robert, The Solitary Walker as he finds Bill Bryson a bit banal by the sound of it. To some extent I do agree that his style does become a bit irritating by the end of the book - but it does make for easy reading, so shall continue to praise "Shakespeare" as it taught me a lot of bits of history I didn't know. Anything is better than nothing, Robert!
So let's all say a loud "we do not agree" to Sol Wal. We'll let you off Totalfeckingeejit as I am in no doubt that you will by this time be legless under my cherry tree from an excess of Pimms!

Rowan said...

Actually I'm on the side of The Solitary Walker - as I said I've only read one or two and in spite of my DH's large collection I haven't felt any great desire to pick up any more.

Dave King said...

Very apt time then to hear the good news that The South Downs are at last to e given National Park status. Great way to celebrate!