An interesting read with plenty of fun facts and interesting characters, but I had problems with the writing. The author used language that made it se...moreAn interesting read with plenty of fun facts and interesting characters, but I had problems with the writing. The author used language that made it seem she was moralizing even as she asked us to believe she was on the side of the mistresses; she constantly referred to their sin, their morality, and tossed around the word frigidity a little too carelessly. And the conclusion... ugh, that was just too much.
It took me a while to get in to the structure of the book, as she leaped from time period to time period and country to country with no warning, but once I accepted that she was discussing various aspects of being a royal mistress and illustrating with random examples, it seemed to flow better. However, starting each sections with grand sermons on the life of a mistress that were loose generalizations from one or two select examples felt forced. For that matter, while I appreciate the obviously painstaking research that went in to this and the fact that extensive documentation exists for only a few of these women, the over-emphasis on a few mistresses from France and the reign of Charles II in England with only scattered references to the rest of Europe and Russia made me wonder what we were missing.
Worth reading for those interested in royal history or just royal sex, but I would have preferred a little less aggrandizing and a little more logic in the presentation.(less)
An easy read full of historical detail, but the dialogue was occasionally heavy-handed, as it awkwardly attempted to explain large leaps of time and b...moreAn easy read full of historical detail, but the dialogue was occasionally heavy-handed, as it awkwardly attempted to explain large leaps of time and backstory in conversation between characters who wouldn't need to say these things to each other. It also went a bit far afield for its double focus on Eliza Austen and Jane Austen, and might've done better to focus on just one or two perspectives; juggling so many narrators felt like too much and that some were inconsistent. Still, I enjoyed it.(less)
As a novel exploring the thoughts and relationships of adolescent/teenage girls, excellent. As a fictional version of Katherine Howard's early life, i...moreAs a novel exploring the thoughts and relationships of adolescent/teenage girls, excellent. As a fictional version of Katherine Howard's early life, interesting. As a novel about the downfall of a wife of Henry VIII, it falls rather short of the mark. The novel ends well before the actual conclusion of the affair or the imprisonment and execution of the main characters, and we are told of these events in a brief afterword. Of the novels I've read fictionalizing this period of history (including the Other Boleyn Girl and the Autobiography of Henry VIII), this one was worth the read but not a stand-out.(less)
A wonderful, dense book. The ideas in it were so sweeping and intriguing that I found myself realizing I didn't really understand all he was saying, b...moreA wonderful, dense book. The ideas in it were so sweeping and intriguing that I found myself realizing I didn't really understand all he was saying, but I was enjoying it too much anyway to stop and go back. So I'm already planning to re-read it.
The majority of the book is a detailed history of the concept of information, looking at methods of communication, mathematics, philosophy, computing, and technology. Gleick's arguments for how this concept developed and evolved are utterly compelling, and had more than a few surprises. I knew about Babbage and Lovelace, Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, and Alexander Graham Bell, but Claude Shannon and several others, the origins of words I now take for granted in my everyday life (bits, networks, files) were revelations.
The last chapter and epilogue were especially fascinating to me, as a librarian and archivist. Discussing our current era, the mood of information overload we think peculiar to our time, wondering which is worse, "too many mouths, or too many ears" and pondering the difficulty of "selecting the genuine," it was like hearing a bell ring. While the stickler archivist in me wants to take issue with the assumption inherent in this discussion that everything digital is automatically forever (this in fact seems crucial to Gleick's notion of the difficulty in forgetting), I can let that slide, because I see his point. In fact, these chapters otherwise seem to perfectly capture the difficulties we face as a profession because they're the ones everyone faces but have trouble expressing without the language of information theory.
In the end, this book is circular: it adds to the information as it tries to wrap itself around the information. But it works, and it's a lovely ride.(less)
A great read - informative, and while occasionally a little depressing, overall highly inspiring. In recent years I've wondered how it is that I never...moreA great read - informative, and while occasionally a little depressing, overall highly inspiring. In recent years I've wondered how it is that I never knew how much I liked history, and this book provided the answer. The descriptions of these ridiculous history books rang so true, and the ways in which those books were wrong were mostly all new to me. I learned a lot from this book, and it was all fascinating.
Loewen presents compelling history on his own, and is scathing about the lies he points out - at times it started to seem overly harsh, until you think that maybe this is what's needed to counteract the smothering blanket of old history. History is vital and captivating, and people's fascination with it can be seen in how it takes over our popular culture, in the TV shows, movies, books, fashions, and music that grab their settings, characters and inspiration from the past; yet students continue to think history is boring, and Loewen presents a compelling discussion on why and how. Anyone with an interest in history or how history is taught could get a lot from this book - whether you agree or not, there's a lot to talk about.(less)
Good God, finished at last! This book was genuinely fascinating and a worthwhile read, but very tough to get through (for me). I was ready and eager t...moreGood God, finished at last! This book was genuinely fascinating and a worthwhile read, but very tough to get through (for me). I was ready and eager to accept all these ideas, but the writing and structure of this book forced me through the process as though I needed to be grudgingly convinced on every page. It's like being handed an excellent term paper but having to let the writer read it aloud in a slow, over-emphasized way, as though speaking to a dolt of limited ability, and then being struck over the head with it to boot. Still, glad I finally read it.(less)