06 May, 2012

A surprising result

David Ross

Took me quite a while to read this (and a whole lot longer to get around to starting it ~ i think i’ve owned it for nearly two years!), but not for any bad reason, just time constraints and other things grabbing mine attention and refusing to let it go. There were a couple of points that rather disappointed me about this, led me to be slightly slower in reading it than i might have otherwise been: First is the physical book itself ~ it is printed on coarse, newspaper-style paper, which gives it a bad feeling to me, both because i’m afraid of permanently damaging it (i have an almost unhealthy respect for the physical well-being of my books) and because that paper triggers a reaction in my mind which says that the contents are less important, more transitory, perhaps, than more expensively produced works; second, obviously, the content found in that physical book ~ i have been unable to determine properly the reader for whom Ross was writing; at times i felt he was producing a child’s history of Wales, or at least one for juvenile readers, but at other times i got the feeling that he was hoping for a full adult readership, and occasionally that he was aiming at the high end of that range, if not actually academic level. This difficulty, either in conception or in execution (or, to be fair, in mine understanding of the book), made for an up and down reading experience; i was not always sure, as i turned the page or moved into a new section, just what i was going to be in for.

A third point, though not so much a disappointment as an observation, is that the sidebars can be distracting as they automatically attract the eye and the reader then must focus on staying away from them or allow himself to read them as soon as the page it turned revealing them; either action leads to a loss of flow in the main text. This is not to say that sidebars are always bad ~ they’re not; sometimes they are quite useful ~ nor that i have a better solution ~ i don’t; i am merely pointing out a problem with their use.

In the end, which may come as a surprise considering i seem to have done nothing but complain in this review, i enjoyed the book, probably enough to make it a success by my criterion, and though i may not know a lot more after having read it than i did before, i do know where to find information, and where to turn for further research about Welsh history (there are a reasonable, though unannotated, bibliography and a very good chronology as parts of the end matter).

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