Saturday, 20 April 2013

The 20th Century by Terry Deary – Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

‘The 20th Century takes you from the last days of the vile Victorian Queen right up to the nostalgic Nineties, with all the amazing changes and incredible inventions that happened in between … and it’s not even over yet!

Want to know:
·         Who shocked the world by showing her knickers?
·         How two monkeys and a dog became astronauts?
·         Why a posh London restaurant served stewed car?

From the suffering Suffragettes to Bill and Ben, from Charlie Chaplin to Margaret Thatcher, this is horrible history as you’ve never seen it before – because you’re part of it! History has never been so horrible!’

The 20th Century is a part of the Horrible Histories series written by Terry Deary, with this book being a special edition. It contains a summary of the entire 20th Century, covering one decade in each chapter.

This book contained elements of a typical Horrible Histories book, with a timeline, interesting illustrations, diary entries and also some excellent handpicked events – making history rather interesting. My expectation on Horrible Histories novels have always been high, as I’ve learnt more about World War II or Egyptian history from the Horrible Histories novels than any history textbook and with that said, I’d have to say that this supposed ‘special edition’ was rather disappointing.

First, it is not very wise to cover the entire 20th Century in 176 pages and thus, the content was inevitably less, very less, in fact. The author did bring out the gradual transition in the way of life, pretty well, but it was mainly, only the British way of life. Moreover, the author’s primary aim was only to make this book interesting than informative – there were several interesting incidents narrated by the author such as the story of Adrian Carton de Wiart or that of Lucky Lord Lucan but they are not of much historical significance, in my opinion, especially, the latter. Out of 176 pages, I guess a chunk of it was occupied by the stories on the South Pole explorer Robert Scott and the next generation Scotts (though I liked the anagram in Loch Ness’ scientific name Nessiteras rhombopteryx).

To sum it up, I would have liked this book, had there been a little change in the title of the book – ‘Britain during the 20th Century’. The Author mainly concentrated only on British inventions, British achievements and British glories but it hardly went beyond Britain (probably the cover story is the only aberration) and is best suited for Brits who are interested in learning about their recent history. What I understood after reading this is that Horrible Histories is more suited when it is particular about something and not generic, like in the case of this book. This is the first horrible histories book that I’m reviewing but it certainly is not the first book of the series that I’ve read and after the expectations those books had set, this disappointed me.

I’d give it a rating of 4/10.

Rating: 4/10

Have a nice day,

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