BOOK REVIEW; ‘The Last Days Of The High Seas Fleet: From Mutiny To Scapa Flow’

107.

Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title:  The Last Days Of The High Seas Fleet: From Mutiny To Scapa Flow

Author: Nicholas Jellicoe

Total Number of Pages: 351

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 9

_______________________________________________

The possibility that a defeated enemy may have a final ‘victory’ even after surrendering would seem, at first glance, to be a ludicrous one, yet what if it actually occurred? This is the premise that this volume is based on; that what was, on first sight, a major ‘defeat’ was in fact a ‘victory’; in that it removed a substantial part of the defeated nation’s military hardware from the grasp of its erstwhile enemies.

This book recounts both the prior-events and aftermath of the mass, carefully planned and very deliberate sinking (scuttling) of the Imperial German Navy’s High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow (Orkney, Scotland) on 21 June 1919. It is a very well-written, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable book about a supposed ‘defeat’ which (it could be reasonably-argued), was in fact a ‘Victory’.

The volume opens with an extended Contents section, the Contents page itself being immediately-followed by additional pages titled List of Illustrations, Abbreviations and Rank Equivalency. While the titles of the first two of these are self-explanatory, the third concerns the similarities and differences between the two volume’s main protagonists: The (British) Royal Navy and the (German) Imperial Fleet. A subheading titled A note on ships’ name spelling within the section, clarifies the spellings used in respect of German naval vessels mentioned within the book. The Rank Equivalency section is followed by the book’s Foreword, which is in turn followed by both its Acknowledgements and Introduction sections; the former thanking those who assisted the author in its preparation, the latter providing background to what is to follow within the 13 Chapters forming the main part of the volume. These take the reader from the origins of the Imperial German Navy, to the Twenty-first Century (specifically 2019), and while so-doing provide in-depth and highly-detailed narratives about the events that form the basis for this volume; the mass sinking of the Imperial German Navy’s High Seas Fleet. Where necessary, Subsections within each Chapter provide additional information about specific aspects of the narrative. However (and in addition the latter), owever 9and (Hh within some Chapters, borders have been placed around certain blocks of text. These are item-specific and elaborate in detail on those items; The Salvage Men (pages 279-80), being but one example of this practice. Where relevant to the narrative, Tables have also been used to list both events and quantities. Chapter 13 (Scapa Flow in History and Today) is followed by a section that the Contents page states is titled Bibliography and Notes. However, according to its actual Title Page (on page 293), the section’s specific title should be Bibliography & SOURCES, yet even that is problematical, as unlike its compatriots on pages 297 and 299, on page 295 the page header merely carries the word  Bibliography. Why this should be is unknown. A section titled Appendices follows. The section is 25 pages long, and contains 10 subsections. These are numbered sequentially and cover a range of subjects. These range from lists of vessels sunk (Appendices 1-2), to President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points (Appendix 5) to Von Trotha’s 9 May Letter to Reuter (Appendix 10).  Whether the Appendices should have been lumped together within a single section or been treated as ‘Stand-alone’ items, could be debated. Within the volume, Endnotes are used to provide both information sources and, where necessary, additional details supra the main text. The associated citations are Volume rather than Chapter sequential, and appear within a designated Notes section placed after the Appendices. The Index follows; it is the volume’s final section. The book contains 36 informatively-captioned images. These cover a variety of subjects relevant to the narrative, are largely monochrome in format, and are placed in two separate sections. Curiously, two additional images appear on page 175, evidently placed there in support of the subsection relating to a specific vessel. Where known, the sources for these images accompanies the image caption. The volume contains numerous Quotes, and while many carry the necessary source citations, it was also noted that a large number were uncited. The reasons for this is unknown. The volume contains no Maps; a surprising omission.

This is undoubtedly an excellent book, but this reviewer found it to be let down by ‘the little things’; the small but important details.  Chief offender in this area was the Index, with random searching finding surprising omissions. Amongst these (for example) was New Zealand (the country). While the Index certainly carried a reference to New Zealand and indicated that these appeared on pages 27 and 86, investigation found that the reference was to the warship HMS New Zealand and not the country. Similar entries and omissions were found for both Australia and Canada, while entries for Naval Division and RNAS (both on page 120) were similarly noted as being missing. Why there should be entries for the Four Power Treaty on pages 241 and 246 but not 132 is also unknown. With such evident omissions it cannot be known what else might be missing, and as a result the authority and veracity of the Index is inevitably suspect. The lack of Maps was also unfortunate, while the ‘mislabelling’ of both the Bibliography & SOURCES section and a page header within it, did not engender confidence.

The ‘little things’ detailed above notwithstanding, this is an outstanding book of the sort that is difficult to put down. It is very well written and researched, is an easy read, and begs fair to become the Standard Reference Work on its subject. It is likely to have broad reader appeal and to be of interest to Naval and Military Historians and enthusiasts. Readers with an interest in World War I and the Royal Navy may also find it worthy of their attention, while warship modellers may find the images informative.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this volume a 9.

_________________________________________

BOOK REVIEW; ‘The Last Days Of The High Seas Fleet: From Mutiny To Scapa Flow’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The National Rifle Association Its Tramways And The London And South Western Railway Targets And Tramways’

106

Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title:  The National Rifle Association Its Tramways And The London And South Western Railway Targets And Tramways

Author:  Christopher Bunch

Total Number of Pages: 323

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 8

__________________________

Writing in this volume’s Foreword, Andrew Mercer (Group Chief Executive & Secretary General; National Rifle Association), notes that ‘This book is a unique reference to the close and often intertwined history of the NRA [National Rifle Association] and the Railways, from the days of Wimbledon common [sic] to the Association’s new home at Bisley’. It is an accurate precis’ of a very interesting book.

Within the volume, the previously-noted Foreword is followed by an Acknowledgements section within-which the author pays tribute to those individuals and organisations that assisted him in the book’s creation. A Preface follows. While summarising the volume’s content, the author also uses it to elaborate on the sources used, paying particular attention to the availability of substantial correspondence held by the National Rifle Association. The section titled Introduction which follows the Preface provides essential historical background to the National Rifle Association itself. The main part of the volume now appears.  This is divided into two sections (Termed Parts), these covering two specific locations and time periods: Wimbledon 1860-1889 (PART 1) and Bisley 1890-1998 (PART 2). Sections within each PART (Termed Chapters and numbered sequentially) cover specific time-periods and subjects.  Where necessary, the Chapters are further-delineated into Subheadings dealing with a specific topic. Three Appendices follow Chapter 10 (The Bisley Camp Tramway from 1923). These cover such diverse topics as ‘….Personalities referred-to with the Text’, a specific locomotive and the various types of motive power used on the Bisley tramway. A small Bibliography follows Appendix 3, and is in turn followed by the volume’s Index, its final section. The volume contains numerous photographs (some in colour, the majority; monochrome), together with Maps, Plans, Drawings, Tables, Diagrams and assorted Ephemera. All are clearly reproduced and informatively captioned although many do not carry indications of their origins. No mention of their existence is made in either the Contents page or in the Index. Curiously, although site-specific Maps are provided, the volume contains no General Ordnance Map of Great Britain to indicate exactly where in the United Kingdom, Wimbledon Common and Bisley might be located. In its absence, a casual reader can have no idea as to precisely where these localities might actually be. It is an unhelpful omission.  Numerous Quotes appear within the volume. None carry citations, in the absence of which their authenticity is open to question, and their historical usefulness substantially reduced.

While this volume is well-written and very informative, for this reviewer, it was let down by the small things; the details, especially in regard to of the afore-mentioned Quotes and, to a lesser-extent, the Index. As already noted, the Quotes contain no citations in support of their authenticity, while the Index entries can best be described as ‘piecemeal’. While reviewing the volume, this reviewer had occasion to seek Index entries on Crystal Palace (page 19), Vizianagram (page 133) and Collin Moynihan (page 134). No entries were found, while the Index entry for Australia, although noting that these occurred on pages 23, 129, 137 and 209, omitted mention of an entry on page 132. There were other, similar, examples, with an Index entry for Jennison on page 28 omitting mention of an earlier entry on page 27. As they may be representative of larger ommissions of an unknown size, the discovery of such ‘errors’ does little to engender confidence in the Index. Several errors of punctuation were also noted, the most obvious of these being the omission of two commas in the title, specifically after the words Association and Tramways. Whether a colon should have been placed after Railways could also be debated.

The details outlined-above notwithstanding, this volume was a delight to read, and bids fair to become the Standard Reference Work on the NRA, Bisley and Competitive Target Shooting in the United Kingdom. As such it is likely to be of interest to both Military and Social Historians and target-shooting enthusiasts of all persuasions. Members of the military may also find it of interest. Railway enthusiasts with an interest in both the London and South Western Railway and obscure, little known tramways, may also find it worthy of their attention. Railway modellers may also find the volume’s photographs and plans useful.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this book an 8.

_________________________________

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The National Rifle Association Its Tramways And The London And South Western Railway Targets And Tramways’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The History Of Toy Soldiers: Over 600 Firms Covered’

105.

Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title: The History Of Toy Soldiers: Over 600 Firms Covered

Author: Luigi Toiati

Total Number of Printed Pages: 621

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 7

________________________

When writing in this volume’s Introduction, the author observes that it ‘First and foremost aims at investigating why a given kind of [toy] soldier was born in a given country in a given period and in a social-cultural environment’. He also notes that ‘Through the pages of this book I would like to convey the joy in collecting – and playing with-toy soldiers’, with the subsequent qualification that (according to the volume’s Forward), ‘…His focus is…on figures already part of history’. It is an unusual summation.

Within the volume itself, a Preface is placed immediately behind the Contents pages. This is followed by the previously-mentioned and multi-page Introduction. Within this the author provides personal background to his passion for toy soldiers. An Acknowledgements section follows. In it the author thanks those (human, electronic, floral and architectural), who assisted him in the creation of this work. It is followed by the volume’s Forward. This summarises what is to follow; the 17 Chapters which form the main part of the volume. Of these, Chapters 1-16 are specifically toy soldier related, while as its title (Some Useful Reading) suggests, Chapter 17 is a list of subject-related text and electronic sources which a reader might find useful. Curiously, and although  dealing with individual aspects of the toy soldier ethos, the author has chosen to use the phrase Toy and Model Soldiers History and Gossip as a title page for the entire section. Although perhaps an unfortunate choice of words, it is an accurate description of what is to follow; a mix of personal reminiscences, philosophical thoughts, comments on manufacturers and their products and, where necessary, an historical (non-model) narrative to give background to what is being discussed. It is an unusual combination. It should also be noted that although Luigi Toiati claims authorship of the volume, articles by other authors also appear within it. Termed Cameos, they appear at the end of several Chapters and although multi-paged and of similar format to the Chapters themselves, are not numbered. Although the authors of these sections evidently have some expertise in the toy soldier field, the articles carry no biographical details to indicate what this may be or why they have been included within the volume. Within the Chapters themselves, subheadings provide additional information on specific subjects and aspects of the larger narrative. These are not however placed in any logical or sequential order. To use the nations listed in Chapter 8 [The bee and the toy soldier…] as but one example, the sequence is France, Germany, USA, Mexico, Argentina, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Scandinavian Countries and Japan. Similar ‘discrepancies’ are also found within the ‘National’ subheadings themselves. Why this should be is not known. Notably, the Contents pages contain no indication of this situation, nor a listing of subsections within the individual Chapters. Where specific manufacturers are mentioned within such subsections, their names are highlighted.  While the volume doesn’t contain a dedicated Bibliography, per se’, end-of chapter Bibliographies do appear in several (but not all) of the Chapters. Although such sections list titles referred-to within their associated Chapters, magazines, although mentioned within the text, are not listed. The reasons for this omission are unknown. The volume’s final section (its Index) is placed after the previously-noted, Chapter 17.  Its Index of Makers title is self-explanatory. The book contains numerous illustrations in a variety of media, and in both monochrome and colour format. Captions, where given are minimal and item-specific and many images contain no source-citations. The Contents pages contain no reference to their existence. Numerous Quotes in a variety of languages (although with English translations) also appear. In the absence of supporting source-citations, their authenticity must inevitably be questioned.

For this reviewer, this volume was problematical in several areas. The Index lists only manufacturers, and by so-doing severely limits any usefulness it may have provided to a reader in respect of individuals, localities and events. A reader requiring such information is thus forced into a page-by-page search with no guarantee of success. Many will not bother. The previously-mentioned lack of any logical order with the individual Chapters only serves to compound the problem. There is however another difficulty; the fact that, for this reviewer at least, the volume cannot decide exactly what it is. The previously mentioned Toy and Model Soldiers History and Gossip phrase summarises the situation well. On one hand the volume is encyclopaedic in its coverage of its subject, yet conversely, it contains a large amount of extraneous material (the previously-mentioned reminiscences, philosophies etc.), which can best be described as being ‘gossip’, and of doubtful-value in a volume which has pretentions towards the authoritative. The latter was not unexpected but has resulted in a volume that is unable to make up its mind as to its intentions. Is it to be taken seriously as a definitive work on its subject, or…? It is neither fish nor fowl and suffers accordingly.

Despite the ‘Difficulties’ noted above, this book is undoubtedly a labour of love and written by an apparent expert in his field.  It is both encyclopaedic in function and specialised in its subject; a volume to ‘dip into’ rather than read in a conventional way. As a result, its likely-readership will be those with a specific interest in the subject. To such individuals the work may achieve ‘Standard Reference Work’ status. Its unusual subject may also have curiousity value to readers of a more generalist nature.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this volume a 7.

It should have been far higher.

___________________________________________

Comments concerning this Review would be appreciated, Thank you.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The History Of Toy Soldiers: Over 600 Firms Covered’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Roman Invasion of Britain: Archaeology verses History’

103. Roman britain

Reviewer: Michael  Keith

Title: The Roman Invasion of Britain: Archaeology verses History

Author: Birgitta Hoffmann

Total Number of Printed Pages: 222

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 8

_______________________

A statement on this volume’s Dust jacket explains its intent well. It notes that ‘The purpose of this book is to take what we think we know about the Roman Conquest of Britain from historical sources, and compare it with the archaeological evidence, which is often contradictory’. It is an accurate summary of what is to follow.

Within the book, a List of Illustrations is placed immediately after the Contents page; it’s function being self-evident. The section reproduces the captions and citations of the monochrome images contained in a 16-page section placed in the centre of the volume. It is in turn followed by a Preface. Within this, the author both provides background as to the book’s origins and acknowledges those who contributed towards its creation. An Introduction follows. This details the academic background to the study of Roman History in Great Britain. The 13 Chapters forming the main part of the volume now appear. With the exception of Chapter 1 (A Few Things to Consider When Reading Ancient Historians) the majority of these are directly-concerned with the Roman conquest and occupation of Britain. Chapter 1 (as its title implies) is instead both a dissertation-on and a guide-to the material likely to be encountered by both Historians and generalist readers, together with the pitfalls that should be expected when such an encounter occurs. The remaining Chapters (2-13) cover specific aspects of Roman Britain. Within each, the author presents both the contemporary versions of events, and, through the use of subsequent archaeological information, either confirms the accuracy of the ancient narrative, or, where this is not the case, a revised and more accurate account of what actually occurred. Where necessary, sub-sections within each Chapter provide greater detail about specific subjects. Two Appendices are placed after Chapter 13. Appendix 1 (Orosius on the Conquest of Britani under Claudius) is an English-language translation of a document originally written in by Josephus, a noted chronicler of the Roman Empire. Appendix 2 (Notitia Dignitatium) is a discussion on the accuracy of this controversial document. A Bibliography follows Appendix 2, and is in turn followed by the volume’s Index; its final section. As previously noted, the book contains a 16-page images section, yet several additional images appear within the body of the work itself. For unknown reasons their existence is not acknowledged within the already-mentioned List of Illustrations’. Although the book also contains several Chapter-specific Maps, no reference to their existence appears on either the Contents page or within the Index. There is also no large Ordnance-Survey-type map of the British Isles to both give context to the narrative and aid in the location of significant events and settlements. Despite the use of subject-specific terminology, the volume contains no Glossary. What (for example) is a dendro-date (Page 12)?  In the absence of a clear and concise explanation, the term is meaningless and one which an average reader cannot be expected to know the meaning of. This was but one example of a considerable number found in the course of the review process.

This volume is undoubtedly well-researched and written. However, this reviewer was left with the distinct impression that what has resulted is a university thesis masquerading as a book. That the author uses the APA reference style for citations instead of the more usual MHRA style reinforced that perception. It was also evident that the author presumed a certain level of reader-knowledge and as already noted, did not consider it necessary to include a Glossary of terms used for the benefit of the layman reader. The Index is also problematical, with random searching finding entries either omitted or incomplete; Portus Itius (page 18) being an example of the former, York (page 155) the latter; with Index entries for pages 115 and 123, but none for page 155.  Other, similar, examples were also found, while the previously-mentioned lack of an Ordnance Survey Map was unhelpful.

Although members of the general public may well find this dissertation about the Roman world in Great Britain of interest, the level of research and the language it contains means that its greatest users may be Teachers, Historians, Archaeologists and those with a specific interest in  the Roman Empire and ancient Britain.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this volume an 8.

________________________________

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Roman Invasion of Britain: Archaeology verses History’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Early Railways: A Guide for the Modeller’

102. MODELLING EARLY RAILWAYS

Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title: Early Railways: A Guide for the Modeller

Author: Peter Chatham, Stephen Weston

Total Number of Printed Pages: 120

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 9

________________________

When writing in this volume’s Introduction, the author states that ‘The aim of this book is to promote and assist the modelling of that formative period of railway history from the very earliest steam railways back to the reign of King George III, up to about 1880 or so, a period which, for modellers in Britain at least, has been covered scarcely, if at all, in book form’. As a precis of what to follow, it is excellent.

Within the book itself, an Acknowledgements section placed behind the Contents page thanks those individuals and organisations which contributed to its content. This is followed by the previously-noted Introduction. The Introduction is in itself a multi-facetted beast, as aside from précising the contents of the volume, it also explains in great detail, such aspects of its subject as railway and social history, signalling, materials, sources and paints, the three latter written specifically with railway modellers in mind. Internet sources are given where appropriate. It is, in summary, very comprehensive. The six Chapters which comprise the main part of the volume now appear. As evidenced by its title (Mike Sharman – a Pioneer Modeller of Early Railways), the first pays tribute to a specific individual ‘… Who modelled the very early railways’ and ‘…Tells the story of how he set about modelling and promoting the early days [of railways]’. Included within this section are track plans and photographs of a variety of subjects relevant to the narrative. Curiously, the Chapter concludes with a ‘Mini Bibliography’ (titled Further Reading) which lists relevant literature specific to it subject. It is a detail not found anywhere else within the volume. Chapter 2 (Infrastructure) now appears and is followed in turn by three others. Their titles: Locomotives (Chapter 3), Carriages (Chapter 4) and Wagons (Chapter 5) are indicative of their content. As will be evident from its title (Layouts and Models), Chapter 6 is devoted to models of appropriate period locomotives and rolling stock and, by use of photographs shows how the previously-provided information can be recreated in model form in a variety of scales. The models and layouts are a delight and are accompanied by informative notes relevant to the specific items on display. A two-page Appendix follows. Titled Sources of supply for modellers, its content is self-evident, and is described as being a ‘…List of prominent manufacturers’ of period equipment from whom such items may be obtained. Notably (and in addition to the expected O and OO gauges), these include several who have equipment in the larger (‘Gauge 3’) and smaller (‘N’) gauges; thus widening the potential audience for this volume. A Bibliography follows.  While, as expected, this lists the printed texts alluded-to within the volume, its authors have added title-appropriate notes below each entry to assist modellers in search of specific information; an unusual and appreciated touch. A two-page Index completes the volume.  Although largely British-focussed, the book also contains references to both contemporary Continental European and American practices. It contains numerous monochrome and colour photographs and lithographs, as well as relevant locomotive, carriage and wagon plans. A layout diagram (that of one of Mike Sharman’s efforts) also appears, and where relevant to the narrative, technical diagrams showing the evolution of railway track are included. All are captioned and, with a small number of exceptions, contain appropriate citations indicating their sources.

While this reviewer could find little to fault with this volume, he did have issues with the book’s Index. Random searching found several entries within the book that were not supported by Index entries. Of these (and in view of its prominence on page 85 (Carriages), somewhat surprisingly), he could find no Index entries for PLM (Compagnie des Chermins de Fer de Paris `a Lyon et `a la Mediterranėe) under either PLM or the full company name. There were other, similar, ommissions; a small matter perhaps, but enough to raise questions about what else might also be missing.

That detail notwithstanding, it is very evident that this volume has been a labour of love for the authors. It is comprehensive, very informative and very well written. It is likely to appeal both to railway modellers who have a specific interest in its subject, and to those of a similar ilk who are just interested in ‘early’ railways, but with no inclination towards actually modelling the era. Transport Historians with an interest in early British, Continental and American railways may also find it of interest, while Social Historians seeking depictions and descriptions of early Nineteenth Century Britain may also find it worthy of their perusal.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent), I have given this volume a 9.

It is well deserved.

____________________________________

.

 

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Early Railways: A Guide for the Modeller’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Uzbekistan: An Experience of Cultural Treasures to Colour’

101.UZBEKISTAN COLOURING BOOK (NOT REVIEWED YET 17 MAY 2019) 20190503_161427 (2)

Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title:  Uzbekistan: An Experience of Cultural Treasures to Colour

Author: Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, Babour Ismailov, Binafsha Nodir, Davron Toshev

Total Number of Pages: 143

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 7

____________________________

According to its cover notes, the volume is intended to be ‘…A celebration of the arts and pictorial traditions of Uzbekistan’ doing-so with ‘Photographs of architectural works, murals, ceramics, tapestries and ornamental textiles’, and as part of this, ‘…The reader is given the opportunity to colour in their own drawings based on the beautiful photographs provided’. The result is simultaneously both a ‘Colouring book’ (albeit a very nice and well-presented one), yet equally a volume showcasing Uzbeki culture. It is an unusual treatment of an unusual subject.

Surprisingly, the volume contains no Contents page; the first page encountered being an untitled one which serves as an Introduction to its subject. This provides a broad historical background to the architecture and designs which are to follow. The first of five Sections which form the main part of the volume now appear. Although not defined as such (and un-numbered), these sections are analogous to Chapters. They cover the previously-mentioned subjects of architectural woks, murals, ceramics, tapestries and ornamental textiles with the unifying factor common to all, being patterns unique to Uzbekistan. These patterns mostly appear as full-page coloured photographs of unknown origin within each section, and in most instances are reproduced as line drawings on an adjacent page. It should be noted however, that, for unknown reasons, pages 54-65 do not contain reference images. Although some images contain a more detailed explanation about their subject (that of Mosaic Décor of Sherdor Madrasah, being one such example), the majority contain only a brief caption, this being placed alongside the appropriate photograph. Surprisingly (and although the intention is that the reader use coloured media such as crayons, pencils or paint to replicate the colours the coloured image contains), no guidance is given as to the colours that should be used, the volume’s complier’s evidently believing that the viewer can make this decision for themselves and ignoring the fact that there are numerous shades of a specific colour (‘Brown’ being but one example). Although a variety of Uzbecki words appear throughout the volume, it contains no interpretative Glossary. What (for example) is Ganch? (Section 2) The section itself offers no explanation and as the word does not appear in the previously-referenced Introduction, a reader can have no idea. Despite being located in a little-known part of the world, no maps are provided to assist the geographically-challenged reader.

The previously-noted ‘limitations’ notwithstanding, it is very evident that this book is a labour of love, yet its exact purpose is uncertain. The problem is that the volume is neither Fish nor Fowl. On one hand it is a celebration of Uzbeki culture and as such is beautifully presented, yet equally it is a Colouring Book, a genre that is at the lower end of the publishing market and more-frequently (and traditionally) associated with children rather than adults. What has resulted in this instance (at least for this reviewer) is a ‘compromise’ that is unable to decide its exact purpose, and is cheapened by this indecision. Were that that was not the case.

Aside from Uzbeki nationals who will purchase it for nostalgic reasons, it is possible that this volume will appeal to several different readerships. These could include ‘Orientalists’ who are interested in Middle Eastern cultures and their attributes, ‘Colourists’ who are seeking different subjects for their talents, and those who simply like beautiful images with a Middle Eastern theme. Artists with an interest in ‘Eastern’ themes and artworks may also find the images contained within this volume worthy of their attention.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this volume a 7.

_______________________________

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Uzbekistan: An Experience of Cultural Treasures to Colour’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Indoor Wildlife: Revealing the Creatures Inside Your Home’

100. INDOOR WILDLIFE

Reviewer:  Michael Keith

Title: Indoor Wildlife: Revealing the Creatures Inside Your Home

Author: Gerald E. Cheshire

No. of Pages: 85

Rating Scale (1: very poor, 10: excellent): 6

___________________________

In his Introduction to this volume, the author states that it ‘…Examines the environments inside our homes that offer sanctuary and somewhere to live for many animals and a few plants [that] find our homes suitable of habitation …’ It is an excellent precis of what is to follow, but as will be seen (for this reviewer at least), draws a very long bow.

The book opens with the aforementioned Introduction. Within this, the author details the many creature-desirable environments that the average domestic dwelling has to offer. He also notes that industrial and rural locations can, in many instances, offer similar possibilities to whichever organism cares to take advantage (‘exploit’) what is on offer.  The five unnumbered Sections (analogous to Chapters) that comprise the main part of the volume then follow, with each Section being devoted to s particular type of organism. Surprisingly, given the book’s title, these range from mammals to moulds, bacteria and even viruses (the ‘Very long bow’, previously alluded-to), these latter appearing under the broad classification of Flora. Regrettably, within each Section, the format and information provided follows no uniform pattern, and could at best be described as being ‘muddled’. The Section on Mammals (for example) carries no introductory subsection relating to its subject, while that of the Section titled Birds does-so, as do those on Invertebrates and Flora. This lack of uniformity is, at minimum, disconcerting. Subsections within each Section are used to describe a specific organism, but yet again, this practice is haphazard and seemingly random, the section Birds containing little more than single-sentence captioned photographs, while that of Flies (a subsection within the Invertebrates section) receives wide and detailed coverage. There are numerous, similar, examples. Regrettably, this ‘bias’, leaves the very distinct impression that the author’s primary interest (and this volume’s focus) concerns very small lifeforms of all varieties to the exclusion of almost everything else. Such text as is provided is supported in many instances by high quality colour photographs some sourced, some not, but again, this support does not extend to every section, with Simple Plants (a subsection of Flora) receiving no image, while Wood Rots (within the same section) has been the recipient of two. The existence of such images is not mentioned on the Contents page. No Index is provided, and the existence of the subsections within each larger Section is also not alluded to on the Contents page, a situation which this reviewer believes promotes unnecessary searching.

This reviewer found this volume frustrating. He expected to find a book containing detailed, image-supported descriptions of the creatures which inhabit the average domestic dwelling, and to a certain extent these criteria were met. He did not however expect to find descriptions of Environmental Viruses and Moulds , Pathogenic Moulds or Timber Rots as part of the narrative, nor a very evident bias towards ‘creepy-crawlies’, this latter to the exclusion of larger life-forms.  For him, the difference in coverage between Birds and Insects was very evident, emphasised by the volume’s previously-mentioned ‘Muddled’ format. The absence of an Index and the consequent need to make numerous (and at times fruitless) searches for a specific organism did not help.

So what to make of the result?

The previous comments notwithstanding, this volume is informative and well-illustrated, with the qualification that it leans heavily towards insects and their ilk. Readers seeking information about the very small creatures, moulds and viruses that co-exist with them within in their domestic environments are likely to find this book of considerable interest and very informative. However, readers seeking similar information about the avian lifeforms they encounter around their dwellings may be disappointed; the coverage of the latter being minimal.

On a Rating Scale where 1: very poor, 10: excellent: I have given this volume a 6.

____________________________

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Indoor Wildlife: Revealing the Creatures Inside Your Home’