Amazing Tales for Making Men Out of Boys by Neil Oliver
|Amazing Tales for Making Men Out of Boys by Neil Oliver|
|Reviewer: Jason Mark Curley|
|Summary: A stuffy history book which annoyed me on many levels.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? No|
|Pages: 384||Date: May 2008|
|Publisher: Michael Joseph Ltd|
I was so excited by the prospect of reading this book: a large format (6"x12") hardback that promised real life, action adventure stories. From the cover, it reminded me of the non fiction I loved to read myself in my latter, pre-teenage years. The title gave an implicit promise of what was going to be delivered in the book, and if only it could have been left at that, this book might have had a fair chance; unfortunately, Neil Oliver isn't employing hyperbole in the book's title.
The introduction is little more than a nostalgia infected polemic. Oliver yearns for the return of the straight laced, manly man who doesn't cry in public and keeps a stiff upper lip. He conveniently forgets the society of conquest and marginalisation that stemmed from those attributes – stopping short of calling for the reinstatement of hanging, corporal punishment and national service – but only just. So if you must buy this book for your children, please rip these pages out before passing it on to them.
The main text of the book does deliver the promised, true life tales, but only positive ones you understand. So you won't find out about the daring exploits of British slave traders or the fearless soldiers who carried out the massacres in India and house burnings in Ireland. What there is, are classic tales of heroism, and sometimes stupidity, that range from the Battle of Trafalgar to the daring assault on Bordeaux Harbour by the Cockleshell Heroes, from the Charge of the Light Brigade to the Battle of Britain.
Technically, the writing is flawless, but to me, it seems like Oliver hasn't taken the needs of his audience into consideration. Reading the individual stories is like reading a voice-over script for a history programme, but without the visuals to entertain and excite you. It's little more than a run down of the facts – with the occasional snippet of incidental information and a good dose of the writer's personal opinion thrown in. It feels like a stuffy text book; I don't think this is a recipe for success.
The stories themselves should be the thing, real life accounts of people who've challenged the world's and their own limitations, make for great stories. Kids and adults will love to read them. This book often feels like you're being spoken down to; if it wasn't for the moralistic standpoint of the author, this wouldn't be the case.
This book might work if you're doing a year six project on Scott and the Antarctic, but other than that, I'd give it a miss. On the surface, this book will appeal to a younger audience but it won't hold their attention. It's such a shame, this book was such a good idea with a potentially huge market. It's just that the execution has been entirely flawed.
Thanks to the publishers for sending me a copy to review.
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