BooksOfTheMoon

Huns, Vandals, and the Fall of the Roman Empire

By Thomas Hodgkin

Rating: 3 stars

Despite being written in the 19th century, with footnotes in Latin (everyone learns Latin at school, right?), this book is actually fairly easy to read. It does sort of throw you in at the deep end, but that’s at least partially because it’s part of a larger work, so by the start of this book, the Roman Empire has already split into Eastern and Western empires, and the Western one isn’t even ruled from Rome any more.

I picked this up mostly because my knowledge of Roman history is pretty weak. The book is split into two sections: a shorter one covering the Huns, and a longer one covering the Vandals. I knew very little about Attila the Hun and the way he swaggered across Europe. Hodgkin is certainly opinionated; he doesn’t try to take a neutral tone at all. He sneers at Attila and the Huns generally, very much giving the impression that he favours the civilised Romans over the “barbarian” invaders. He doesn’t rate Attila’s abilities as a general, despite his obvious accomplishments. This is sort of refreshing, given how used we are to historians trying to remain impartial.

However, I got to the end of Attila’s life, and Hodgkin started setting the scene for the Vandals, and I found myself caring less and less. There’s so many different players, petty politics (some things never change) and armies marching around, that every time I picked it up, I would lose heart after barely a handful of pages.

So I’m admitting defeat. Maybe I’d be better off starting smaller, like with a Wikipedia page summary or something. So despite being well-written, easy to read, I just don’t care enough about the subject matter to continue.

Book details

ISBN: 9781853672422
Publisher: Greenhill Books
Year of publication: 1996

Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders, #1)

By Robin Hobb

Rating: 2 stars

I’m afraid I didn’t finish this (on this occasion, anyway). I got about a fifth way through it but just wasn’t enjoying it. I had no joy in picking it up, even though it was a moderate page turner once I was reading it. But there are other books to read, so I’m giving up on this one, I’m afraid. I didn’t hugely like any of the characters and was told that there’s no conclusion at the end of this book, that for that, I’d have to finish the whole series, and that’s far too much commitment for something that I’m not enjoying.

I’m sure there’s a huge, complex world to unpick in here, but (as I say, at the moment, at least), it’s just not doing it for me. I’m not hugely fond of high fantasy ( The Lord of the Rings being a clear exception), preferring urban fantasy and science fiction so this was always going to be a struggle. Maybe I’ll pick it up again later.

Book details

Publisher: Harper Voyager
Year of publication: 1998

Don Quixote

By Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Rating: 2 stars

It’s not often that I can’t finish a book that I’ve started, but I gave up on this about two books into the first part (only about 70 pages in). The chapters are short and I thought I could read it in small doses, but every time I picked it up, I just put it back down again, feeling that I’d rather read something else. After several months of that, I’m officially giving up.

The problem is the style of the humour. It’s relentless poking fun at poor Don Quixote and mocking someone who, today, would be regarded as probably mentally ill and requiring care. That and the cringe comedy (which I really don’t like), not to mention the burning of books, has completely put me off.

I did get as far as the tilting at windmills. I don’t know why this has become such a part of modern culture, as it’s quite a minor episode in the book, but then culture does often pick up on quite random things, I suppose.

I’ll leave this on my shelf and maybe pick it up again in future, but it may end up being passed on, hopefully to a more appreciating reader.

Book details

ISBN: 9781853260360
Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd
Year of publication: 1615

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

By Thomas S. Kuhn

Rating: 0 stars

I bought this book for an adult-education course on scientific paradigms which was cancelled. Since it seemed like quite a slim volume I decided to read it anyway, but found it very hard going. It’s written in a dry, academic style which I found very difficult to read more than a few paragraphs at a time of, and retained even less, so I eventually gave up, just a few chapters in. Maybe I’ll finish it someday, but I don’t hold out much hope.

Book details

ISBN: 9780226458083
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Year of publication: 1962

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