This extraordinarily wide-ranging study looks at the dilemmas of life today and shows how they need not have arisen. Portraits of living people and historical figures are placed alongside each other as Zeldin discusses how men and women have lost and regained hope; how they have learnt to have interesting conversations; how some have acquired an immunity to loneliness; how new forms of love and desire have been invented; how respect has become more valued than power; how the art of escaping from one's troubles has developed; why even the privileged are often gloomy; and why parents and children are changing their minds about what they want from each other....Continua
Far far far too short. What Zeldin accomplishes in a scant 500 pages should, in reality, be a twenty volume thesis. The topic is so vast, and the only real criticism one could possibly level at the author is that at times chapters should be book-length, rather than ten or twenty pages.
It is a colossal achievement, and surely a good which should grace the shelves of every serious literary reader. Everything that your favourite novelist tries to do - every emotion, nuance and ambition - is caught, examined and predicted by Zeldin. It will not change your life, but it will make you examine your society and reactions just that little bit closer.
Read it. Be brave. Don't look back....Continua