Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The War For All the Oceans

Every now and then I glance down the list of books read by my friend Skip which he keeps posted in the sidebar of his blog and some time ago my eye was caught by The War For All the Oceans. I checked out the authors' web site and found the most amazing reviews. I managed to acquire a copy eventually, and by the end of the first chapter I was in full agreement with the reviewer who wrote, "Reads more like a novel than history". By the time I had read the next two chapters, I had decided that my opinion had changed. That's not to say that I found the book uninteresting: quite the reverse, in fact. But it's not written like a novel I would normally enjoy.

Given that the book covers the history of the British Royal Navy from 1791 till 1815, by which time Britannia really did rule the waves, there is a fantastic amount of detail. Of particular interest are the accounts from seamen's letters and journals of battles and day-to-day life aboard naval ships of various sizes, from brigs to ships-of-the-line. It is surprising that so many of these have survived two hundred years - and surprising also that so many lower deck seamen could write so well.

So, yes, a book I can recommend to any interested in the history of that period - basically, the Napoleonic wars - but this is not for most people. I can give no more than 3 stars.

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