Written in History: Letters That Changed the World

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Catherine the Great and Emile Zola, Stalin and Rosa Parks: was letter-writing all they shared in common? Not quite. Yet Simon Sebag Montefiore, eager to show commonality, has gathered a hundred letters that he suggests changed the world. Perhaps an overstatement? Perhaps sometimes an embarrassing nosiness? All sorts of conflicting words can be attached to this seductive treat. Montefiore has organized thematically rather than chronologically so that one reads the centuries, even millennia whimsically.

Written in History begins with a gathering of love letters, the owners turning in their graves at the revelations of long-ago indiscretions. But a few pages later, the mood changes to admiration as eighteen-year-old Pliny the Younger describes to historian Tacitus the catastrophic Mount Vesuvius volcano which claimed his uncle, Pliny the Elder.

When two American Presidents hand over the baton to their successors, readers welcome the poignant words of George W.H. Bush to Bill Clinton, ‘Your success is now our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.’. And more pragmatically, John Adams advising Thomas Jefferson, ‘In order to save you the trouble and Expence (sic) of purchasing Horses and Carriages, which will not be necessary, I have to inform you that I shall leave in the stables of the United States seven Horses and two Carriages with Harness the property of the United States.’.

This is a dip in and browse kind of book. Montefiore, an author of deserved repute, intended another spell-binder. More prosaic though fascinating. Enjoy!

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Star Count 3/5
Format Trade
Page Count 336 pages
Publisher Vintage
Publish Date 2019-10-15
ISBN 9781984898166
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue December 2019
Category History


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