I like to try different books, particularly non-fiction and I have previously read several Samuel Johnson prize winners/nominated books and have alwayI like to try different books, particularly non-fiction and I have previously read several Samuel Johnson prize winners/nominated books and have always found them fascinating and this book is right up there with the best of them. I knew nothing about North Korea except that it was a nuclear power and this book has really opened my eyes to a new world - one that it is hard to imagine for those of us living in a democracy. The people that Barbara has written about have led extraordinary lives and have survived some of the worst conditions of the late 20th Century and she has written a book that is not sentimental or seeking to be a polemic - it is just people's experiences of a regime that to us in the west seems an anachronism. Does anybody know why communist dictators call their countries democracies by the way? It is something I have never understood.
Anyway I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested to learn more about a country and society that has more resemblance to the dystopia of George Orwell's "1984" than to a 21st Century nation. It has been written in an easily accessible fashion and is not just a condemnation of a dictatorship - rather it seeks to tell the story of a country through the prism of the lives of ordinary citizens. Fascinating and disturbing it makes you realise how lucky we are in the West despite the fact that our politicians have feet of clay, they at least can be voted out if they do not satisfy and we can still disagree with policy without risking our lives and liberty. To all the defectors from North Korea, I say thank you for being brave enough to let Barbara tell your story and I hope that you will live long and fulfilling lives that are a rebuke to the political system of North Korea....more
Having an interest in the Tudor period and voraciously reading any books that are published on the period I was really looking forward to this book -Having an interest in the Tudor period and voraciously reading any books that are published on the period I was really looking forward to this book - especially given the reviews that it attracted. Sadly, I have been left underwhelmed by it and wondering what the reviewers were reading.
Having read it assiduously all that has remained with me is the glaring factual errors in the text and the poor proof-reading that seems to be endemic in much of the publishing world today. In fact, books that have been carefully proof read are increasingly rare.
However, the gratuitous errors that litter this book are the most offensive parts of it. In chapter 9 (page 47 in the hardback edition) Mr Skidmore states that Isabella of Castile was 52 when she gave birth to Catherine of Aragon. A quick check with the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography confirms that, born in 1451, Isabella gave birth to Catherine in 1485 - when she was 34. This is not the only mistake he makes with the age of his protagonists, in chapter 53 (p.316) he has Robert Dudley marrying Lettice Knollys at the age of 36 - when in fact, he was 46.
He also re-writes history when, in chapter 48 (p. 278), he alleges that the mother of Henry, Lord Darnley, was the grand-daughter of Henry VIII.
The finding of the coroner's report into Amy Robsart's death is historical gold but presenting the evidence in a book that is factually incorrect in other ways does it a disservice. There will be readers of this book who, with little knowledge of the period, accept the factual errors as truth and that is unacceptable.
I hope that Mr Skidmore will review his book and put right these mistakes and that, for any future book, he will take the time and trouble to ensure that he is presenting the truth to his readers. For me, these basic errors have spoilt what promised to be an illuminating book and it will be consigned to the back of the book shelves never to be revisited. ...more
I have read other books by William Dalrymple and have always enjoyed them and this book was not an exception. It was funny and touching and made me waI have read other books by William Dalrymple and have always enjoyed them and this book was not an exception. It was funny and touching and made me want to visit Dehli to see the city for myself - one day perhaps.
This is a valuable addition to the Tudor canon and by concentrating on the main characters and their actions using primary sources where available, seThis is a valuable addition to the Tudor canon and by concentrating on the main characters and their actions using primary sources where available, secondary sources and modern pyschological interpretations of their actions he offers up some valid and compelling alternative theories. Throughout, however, Jane Grey remains a lonely and abused figure apparently deserted by those who should always have had her best interests at heart. It would be nice to think that her mother did not abandon her to her horrible fate but the absence of any proof to the contrary leaves us with the feeling that self-preservation was more important to her....more