Blandine's Reviews > Making History

Making History by Stephen Fry
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's review
Sep 17, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: english
Read in August, 2011

** spoiler alert ** It’s easy to understand why some girls would write and sing love songs to Stephen Fry on YouTube asking him to maybe let them carry his baby. Making History was the first thick book which I picked up after two intense years of dissertation-writing. My Masters finally done and over with, all I wanted was to sit down and enjoy a good read “for pleasure”. I have loved Stephen Fry for years now but despite staring at his books on the bookshop shelves many a time, I never went ahead and bought one. Liking the summary at the back of my copy of Making History, I decided to finally lose my Fry-novel virginity with it.

The story is that of Michael, a Cambridge History student about to finish his thesis about Hitler. His relationship with his slightly older girlfriend – a biochemistry researcher – is not going too well but Michael is confident that his masterpiece of a thesis will secure himself a successful life and career (he does call it “das Meisterwerk” after all). But things don’t go as planned: his thesis turns out to be a failure and his girlfriend dumps him. However his meeting with Leo Zuckerman, a professor, is about to change his life and the face of the world: what if the two men could change History and prevent Hitler’s birth?

I could not put down Making History. The story is fascinating and thought-provoking. You can’t help but wonder, what if? Stephen Fry here chooses to imagine that somebody else would have taken Hitler’s place. His argument is that nationalism was growing in Germany, as was anti-Semitism, and that the rise of a Hitler was unavoidable. I would like to believe otherwise although Fry’s pessimistic approach is most probably the most realistic one. Europe becomes a giant dictatorship ruled by the Nazis (German becomes its one and only official language) and the United States and Russia fight side by side against Germany. Furthermore, Stephen Fry’s Hitler-free world has never known the 1960s – this means that segregation is still in place in America and that homosexuality was never decriminalised.

Fry did an incredible job with his research: everything is perfectly detailed and, I imagine, accurate since a bibliography is to be found at the end of the book (and anyway, he apologises for any mistake he may have made, and who wouldn’t forgive Stephen Fry?!). The style is also to be commented upon: while most of the story is written in prose, the more “action-packed” chapters are written in screenplay mode. To be honest, as I’m not used to reading to screenplays, I found it long to get through these chapters.

Overall, I would genuinely advise this book to anyone who likes a good thought-provoking yet distracting read. I was disappointed in the end which felt a little like an anti-climax after such an intense experience however I decided to not hold it against Stephen Fry (too much) because he definitely gave me five-or-so days of terribly pleasant compulsive reading.

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