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Carpe Librum

Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.


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Historical Novel Society

Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London - Nigel Jones I had high hopes for this book ever since I first saw it on the shelves of our local Barnes and Noble for $35. This being out of my price range, I frequently checked for it at Better World Books hoping to score a cheap used copy. Failing that, it went onto my most recent Christmas wish list, and this is where I found success.

Unfortunately, this book was not what I had built it up to be. I was envisioning a detailed description from beginning to end of the Tower of London with each renovation and royal use described. I thought that it would fill in gaps in my knowledge of British history because- what has taken place that the Tower has not been somehow involved?

One era that this held true for was the Civil War (1640-1660). This is not a time period that I have not read extensively about, so Jones' coverage of it was interesting. He also seemed to give information from the point of view of both Parliament and Royal followers of this time. (If someone knows more about these events and felt differently, please let me know. As I said, this is not an area of expertise for me.)

This unbiased reporting did not hold true for most of the book. Though the title is Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London, it possibly should be Tower: This Author's Opinion on Events Taking Place There. For the Plantagenet and Tudor reigns, Jones states what happened definitively with little reference to any other theories that may be held. For example, Richard III murdered not only his innocent little nephews but also Henry VI in true Shakespearean style. For any offended Plantagenet fans, he is just as ruthless and one-sided in his telling of Henry VII's & Henry VIII's tales. Jones' sources include several that I have read and I don't remember anyone having such certain information on these mysteries that have been made unsolvable by time. The final blow was that Jones ends his history with the beginning of Victoria's reign, other than a brief mention of some WWII spies who were executed there. Apparently nothing interesting happened at the Tower in the 1900s.

When you add to this opinionated history the fact that much of it was drawn out and boring while other sections skipped over entire reigns, I almost gave up on it . . . . but I couldn't. I had desired this book for so long with it's beautiful cover and intriguing title. I give it a rather generous 3 stars because 2 seems rather harsh. Just the anticipation of reading it was worth that much. I would recommend this book only to those who are looking for (what seemed to me to be) a summary of basic British history that is found in old text books.