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13 Reviews
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, lively and witty
The topic of this book seems off-putting, for some reason. It seems that we all assume that the history of dueling would be grim, dull and depressing.

But on a whim, I checked this book out from the library. Within a day or two, I had placed my order to buy it. It is an intelligent and a very engaging read. Barbara Holland brings her charming wit to every...
Published on January 16, 2006 by George

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, but go with a print edition.
I read and absolutely loved Ms. Holland's "The Joy of Drinking", so "Gentlemen's Blood" seemed like a book I would enjoy. The subject matter combined with Barbara Holland's incisive and satirical wit seemed like a perfect match. And it has been through the first six chapters. A very easy book to get into and the fact that you may learn something along the way should not...
Published on January 27, 2012 by Lee in central MD


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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, but go with a print edition., January 27, 2012
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I read and absolutely loved Ms. Holland's "The Joy of Drinking", so "Gentlemen's Blood" seemed like a book I would enjoy. The subject matter combined with Barbara Holland's incisive and satirical wit seemed like a perfect match. And it has been through the first six chapters. A very easy book to get into and the fact that you may learn something along the way should not deter anyone from picking this up.

I would gladly give this 5 stars if I could. But through no fault of Ms. Holland, I cannot.

I've had my Kindle since September (2011), and I love it. However, I have not yet seen any Kindle implementation anywhere near as bad as this one. Barbara Holland is a very "readable" author, but this edition is sometimes a chore to read and it shouldn't be. I've never seen SO MANY errors of grammar, syntax and worse. It's almost as if there was no error checking at all.

A good example can be found on the opening page of Chapter VII ("BLOODY BLADE NSBURG" as it is titled). There is a full length portrait of an early 19th century naval officer whose name, if the caption is to be believed, is $?AA*>,/?<<*,,/,, , or maybe it's a quotation, or who knows? The book (at least the first 6 chapters) is just full of errors. In all fairness, the most frequent offense is several words run together, but this happens A LOT.

So a great book, easily 5 stars if you get a good print edition. If you go Kindle, who knows? Depending on your error tolerance threshold you might think a 1 or 2 star rating was appropriate. I have only read the first 6 chapters so maybe things will improve. Here's hoping.

[update]
I would like to point out that the list of illustrations appears to be un-corrupted. Also, after beginning Chapter VII, I ran into a new type of error. The chapter opens with a citation from a magazine article. After that the texts jumps to the largest font available. It does this on its own and I'm not sure if it will go back to normal if I try to adjust the font size manually as I had to stop reading the book for another, un-related reason. I don't know what sort of return policy Amazon has for Kindle books, but I am going to find out.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, lively and witty, January 16, 2006
This review is from: Gentlemen's Blood: A History of Dueling (Paperback)
The topic of this book seems off-putting, for some reason. It seems that we all assume that the history of dueling would be grim, dull and depressing.

But on a whim, I checked this book out from the library. Within a day or two, I had placed my order to buy it. It is an intelligent and a very engaging read. Barbara Holland brings her charming wit to every page.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Take back your scurrilous words, knave!, December 7, 2008
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This review is from: Gentlemen's Blood: A History of Dueling (Paperback)
"Since pissing on walls is still common today in sophisticated Paris, protecting a lady from the sight in bygone days must have been time-consuming." Author Barbara Holland in GENTLEMEN'S BLOOD

When I first saw that Barbara Holland, one of my very favorite social commentators, had addressed the subject of dueling in GENTLEMEN'S BLOOD, I thought "But, why?" Was one of her ancestors killed in a face-off, perhaps, or was she herself called out by a work colleague one day at the water cooler? I mean, what's that all about? Regrettably, she doesn't say.

Subtitled "A History of Dueling from Swords at Dawn to Pistols at Dusk", this volume is exactly that and beyond to the use of Bowie knives and, in one bizarre instance, "a deadly venomous snake, probably a cobra."

After an examination of what it was that had to be so stoutly defended by dueling, i.e. the nebulous concept of "honor" seemingly only possessed by gentlemen, Holland describes the evolution of the one-on-one confrontation from 16th and 17th century Europe (England, Ireland, France, Italy) to 18th and 19th century America (Northeast, Old South, West), then back to the outposts of the British Empire, Germany, and Russia. Interwoven into the narrative is a description of the early rules of engagement, as well as the aforementioned transition from long-bladed weapons to, um, snake. For each period and place, Barbara includes specific illustrative examples. Some U.S. readers will perhaps recognize the Hamilton-Burr, Jackson-Dickinson, Clay-Randolph and Benton-Lucas contests for the bits of Americana they are. However, a large proportion of the other recorded duels are just superfluous filler that only serves to unnecessarily prolong the book unless illustrative of the ridiculous extreme of a gentleman's honor that compels him to challenge another. For example:

"... Lieutenant Evans of the Twenty-Fourth Foot was chatting with Lieutenant Ogilvy ... They compared the respective merits of their respective regiments, and Evans mentioned that he thought that the quality of the spruce beer served in the messes was about the same in both. Ogilvy, stung, retorted that the Twenty-Sixth's beer was infinitely better. Evans said that must mean Ogilvy was calling him a liar. Ogilvy retorted that he was indeed 'a damned lying scoundrel'... After the first round of shots (in the subsequent duel), Evans again asked for an apology. Ogilvy again refused, and they broke out another case of pistols."

Perhaps the most unnecessary chapter is "Russian Soul", a 22-page mini-bio of Alexander Pushkin. The fact that he was ultimately killed in a duel barely negates the fact that, if the reader couldn't care less about the Russian poet, the section is a complete bore. OK, I stand completely nekulturny.

GENTLEMEN'S BLOOD is saved by Holland's dry, rapier wit copiously served-up. But the esoteric nature of the subject and the fact that she beats it to death makes it perhaps one of her less compelling literary achievements. Sorry, Barbara, I wasn't completely engaged this time around.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but annoying at times- and terribly formatted for Kindle., May 19, 2012
By 
Eric Stott (Albany, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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I found this a good read overall but it's about as deep as a puddle. My main problem is the author's tone- most reviewers call it light and satirical, but to me it's often flippant and forced. Maybe a little too much straining to be clever. Still, I only paid $2.99 so I;m not complaining much- I've certainly gotten my money's worth in entertainment and a little education.

The Kindle formatting is terrible. Words are frequently run together or split and at one point the font jumps to a very large size for several pages. Chapter XV is titled WIND IN GDOWN - it took me a minute to realize it was WINDING DOWN.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Respect, Manliness and Honor, February 26, 2011
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This review is from: Gentlemen's Blood: A History of Dueling (Paperback)
From Achilles versus Hector to Tiger versus Phil, the mano a mano duel has at some level always played a role in the world we live in. Barbara Holland's Gentleman's Blood is a scintillating read that takes a peek into a culture of respect, manliness and honor. One based on the Code Duello that gentleman must abide by or risk disgrace. A culture in which it was better to be shot at, stabbed, or gutted by a bowie knife than to decline an interview with an opposing principal and risk humiliation.

It was very interesting to read how dueling was a global phenomena and not just limited to certain regions. Great Britain, France, Italy, Russia, Germany, and the United States all had dueling stamped as a part of their life. Each of these countries had their own idiosyncrasies to the art of dueling which Holland explores. The book is full of dueling tales such as the Burr/Hamilton duel , Clay/Randolph, Hatfields/McCoys and many lesser known but equally compelling ones. The absurdity of some of them had me laughing out loud several times. It's a light read that is well written and flows nicely. This is the first Barbara Holland book I have read and I intend to read a couple more as she has an amusing charm in the way she writes. Enjoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gentlemen's Blood, July 7, 2008
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"Gentlemen's Blood" is undoubtedly the most entertaining and informative book about dueling that I have yet read. Baldick's "The Duel" is a close runner-up, but that author doesn't match Barabara Holland's wry writing style. She is well-versed on her facts and her dueling lore, and displays an amazing breadth of knowlege of the subject. Her exposition of the whole concept of "honor", and the associated concept of "gentleman", are as lucid and thoughtful as any reader could hope for, but never tedious. Once begun, this is a hard book to put down.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A delight, January 22, 2009
This review is from: Gentlemen's Blood: A History of Dueling (Paperback)
I must agree with all the other reviewers, though that may seem hard to do. The book was immensely entertaining on account of the author's wit. The chapter on Pushkin was completely tangential to the topic, up until he was shot in a duel. However, the chapter was nonetheless a delight to read. I suppose if one were writing a history report about dueling in Russia, the chapter would be a disappointment. However, if one were writing such a report, I would hope one would look for more scholarly material. This book is meant for easy reading. It is a fun book to read so that you can have funny anecdote to spout off at your next cocktail party. Of course, the author does offer a little commentary about honour and such things of that nature. However, I kept reading not because the book was a biting social commentary, but because the stories were just too funny. I remember the particular story about a duel between a man and a dog that was sanctioned and witnessed by some crowned prince or other. I don't do justice to the author's wit, but that's okay. I suggest that you pick this book up and read it on your next plane ride somewhere or as light reading. You will no regret it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An old way, December 21, 2013
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of settling feuds was to call out the one who accused you and try to settle it on a Field of Honor. This book give some of the rules and much of the history of this long gone code of honor.
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5.0 out of 5 stars En Garde!, November 5, 2013
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This review is from: Gentlemen's Blood: A History of Dueling (Paperback)
This book is full of fantastic accounts of dueling on both sides of the Atlantic, it was fun to read I learned quite a bit too.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Combat history, January 17, 2013
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This is a well written, extensively well researched, accurate, accounting of hand to hand combat through the ages. Great detail as to the various weapons is given, a generous amount of World history is detailed, a good deal of information being United States history. An extremely interesting read for those interested in knives, swords, ancient and recent firearms and the details of their use in combat through the years.
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Gentlemen's Blood: A History of Dueling
Gentlemen's Blood: A History of Dueling by Barbara Holland (Paperback - September 13, 2004)
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