[amazon_image id=”039332902X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Story of Britain: From the Romans to the Present: A Narrative History[/amazon_image]Rebecca Fraser’s comprehensive book [amazon_link id=”039332902X” target=”_blank” ]The Story of Britain: From the Romans to the Present: A Narrative History[/amazon_link] delivers exactly what the title promises: Britain’s history for approximately the last 2,000 years. With such vast subject matter, 800+ pages seems like an achievement in brevity. Fraser’s chapters are divided by monarchs, and until the Prime Minister is established as leader, the chapters mainly focus on the monarchy. After the introduction of the Prime Minister, focus shifts to the Prime Minister, Parliament, and more general matters. Sprinkled among the hard history, Fraser shares stories some readers might consider trivial, but that are nonetheless entertaining. Rather than pick out one thing, it might be easier for you to scan my public notes and highlights. The monarchy comes off well in the narrative, as do Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. The book overall has a sort of liberal bent, however, which the author takes no pains to disguise (this is not a criticism but an observation).
In all, the book was by turns delightful and intriguing, but I have some quibbles with it that prevent it from earning five stars. First, Fraser frequently neglects to use commas in situations when doing so would make her writing clearer. A reader should not have to re-read sentences two and three times when a simple comma could have clarified meaning. I know commas can be a style issue, but in nonfiction writing, I expect a more faithful adherence to grammatical and mechanical rules. If that sounds too English teacher school marmy, then I apologize, but above all, nonfiction should inform, and readers should not be distracted by punctuation errors as they are trying to understand what they’re reading. Another quibble I have with the book is that I know Fraser made some errors. Case in point, she refers to Sputnik as a manned space craft. In another instance, she refers to great naval hero as Paul Jones. He was John Paul Jones. Minor? Perhaps. However one was his full name and the other was not. Fraser seems particularly weak when referencing American history, which makes sense given it is not the subject of her book—another example is the slogan “Fifty-four Forty or Fight,” which Fraser renders “Fifty-four Fifty or Fight.” Such inaccuracies may be minor, but they made me question the accuracy of everything else I read that I didn’t know. From what I can tell, the book is largely accurate, but these issues did make me question.
In all, the book is a fascinating read about the history of a fascinating country, and setting aside the issues I had with it, I’m glad I read it. I learned a great deal from it, and it sparked some interest in eras I previously had not given much study to. I would recommend it highly to anyone interested in British history and/or culture. You might find it handy to read on the Kindle like I did: it’s a chunkster if you have to prop it up in bed.Rating: