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Book of Kings

Historical Novels Society Review

Historical Novels Society, February 2001

I don't think I have ever before reviewed a book about which I felt so intimidated. The Book of Kings is an intellectual heavyweight. Its story is that if Europe, of the last century, of movements, politics and ideologies. It is about the Second World War and events leading up to it. It is about how people are swept away by causes, about how an individual's personal history and circumstances shape how he thinks. Even the 773 pages give no real indication as to the size and scope of this work. Although time is often taken to explore the social and political philosophies of the age through the interaction of the characters, there is still an immediacy about the events. As a reader I had the benefit of hindsight, yet I was still left with a feeling of discovery, of how it was, an unfolding of history in which the people are both tools and pawns.

That said it is also a very personal account of individual account of individual lives, spanning decades and continents. It is not easy reading in the sense that there are many characters, ranging from the German aristocracy to the poor of Algeria. The book is written in short scenes which makes it manageable, but the action travels in time and place so that one is often having to adjust as to who and when. Certain similarities of name also confuse. There is, however, something about the way in which the author captures emotion, particularly that of his male characters, that reminds me of D H Lawrence, a purity of feeling that is intense and utterly compelling. This book is frequently compared to Tolstoy. For me it scores on every writing front. Highly recommended.

Janet Mary Tomson

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The Book of Kings
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