My rating: 2 of 5 stars
A Very Peculiar History feels a lot like a Horrible History clone. And the problem when you clone something as good as Horrible History, there’s a very high likelihood you come up wanting.
This book is perfectly fine but it’s not outstanding. Written to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, it details the history of the Queen and the Royal Family. Books of facts are tricky things. They can either go the Guinness Book Of Records sort of route and present their facts thematically or in subject order, or present their facts in a more chronological manner. The difficult with a chronological presentation of facts is that we know where the book ends up. So whilst it has an appeal as a ‘Jubilee’ book, there’s a difficulty in that it writes about 2012 in spectacularly generic terms – because it was published too early to reflect the fairly seismic shifts in both the monarchy and the country over the summer of 2012. I have difficulty for example with paragraphs which feel as written many months ahead filler: “Some Londoners unmoved by sport or royalty vowed to travel abroad to avoid both the crush and hype, while others criticised the vast expenditure … For many though [the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee celebrations] offered a welcome distraction during the gloom of an economic recession”
Additionally there’s a bit of an odd glossary at the back where it covers terminology such as ‘bank holiday’, ‘bulimia’ and ‘HRH’. It doesn’t include entries for things like ‘recession’ or ‘republicanism’.
This is a solid book, but it’s kind of unsatisfying. British History – and the history of the monarchy – is amazing. History is amazing. History is our story as a people. There’s better books out there to tell our story.