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The Discovery of Middle Earth: Mapping the Lost World of the Celts Hardcover – November 4, 2013
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Presenting one of the most astonishing, significant discoveries in recent memory, Robb, winner of the Duff Cooper Prize and Ondaatje Award for The Discovery of France, upends nearly everything we believe about the history—or, as he calls it, €œprotohistory€—of early Europe and its barbarous Celtic tribes and semimythical Druids. Popularly dismissed as superstitious, wizarding hermits, Robb demonstrates how the Druids were perhaps the most intellectually advanced thinkers of their age: scientists and mathematicians who, through an intimate knowledge of €œsolstice lines,€ organized their towns and cities to mirror the paths of their Sun god, in turn creating €œthe earliest accurate map of the world.€ In his characteristically approachable yet erudite manner, Robb examines how this network came to be and also how it vanished, trampled over by a belligerent Rome, which has previously received credit for civilizing Europe—though in Robb's account, Caesar, at the helm, appears dim, unwitting, and frankly lucky, and the (often literally) deeply buried Celtic beliefs and innovations seem more relevant in modern Europe than previously assumed. Like the vast and intricate geographical latticework that Robb has uncovered, the book unfurls its secrets in an eerie, magnificent way—a remarkable, mesmerizing, and bottomless work. 50 illus. Agent: Gill Coleridge, Rogers Coleridge & White (U.K.). (Nov.)
Were an atlas of the Celtic world before the Roman conquests ever created, it could derive from the information amassed in this volume. The author of a prior geographical investigation, The Discovery of France (2007), Robb remarks that this one begins with a scholar’s hypothesis that Celtic settlements, sacred places, and roads were sited on abstract lines based on summer and winter solstices. Off and running after explaining one such line, named for the classical hero Hercules, Robb proceeds to delineate scores of lines at whose intersections archaeological evidence of Celtic habitation has been excavated in modern France and Britain. Dozens of diagrammatic maps visualize Robb’s somewhat complex accounts of Celtic cartography, which developed in the course of Celtic migrations. When one of these reached Rome in 387 BCE, Celts entered a written history that Robb taps for his narratives of Celtic resistance and defeat in Rome’s invasions of Gaul and Britannia. Assiduous research into the obscurities of an ancient culture, including its Druids, Robb’s opus should lure readers interested in the Celtic domains. --Gilbert Taylor
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The writing is dense at times, but hey--the book is about history, math and surveying. Stick with it. I did and I don't regret it.
Warning: If you buy the Kindle edition, the maps and illustrations will be difficult to view. It's not a huge deal, but I like maps. I kind of wish I'd bought the paper version. In fairness to the Kindle, I'm middle aged and use reading glasses. Still, I had to stack up two pairs at once to see the maps.
If, on the other hand, you're looking for a narrative of an historian's search for alignments of Celtic cities, filled with evidence and notes, and also filled with moments of personal doubts and excitement, I think you'll like this book. Robb is oblique in a Celtic way, fluidly moving between formal arguments and dream-like coincidences.
This book wasn't what I was looking for, but I'm glad I read it. I enjoyed it as a sort of traveler's journal of a very intriguing land.
The current book is sadly much inferior. Still we have glimpses of interesting stories, but the underlying narrative is just missing. In the previous book the author was reporting known facts, but in this book he is putting forward his own theories. Interesting, but such scholarly work should be tested in peer reviewed journals first. Often the author is sceptical about his findings, but he presents them anyway. The details are fascinating, but the overall picture just does not materialise.
The writing style is not very sophisticated. Some sections read like academic papers, others like a travelogue, and other sections seems straight out from Wikipedia. I was interested and checked Wikipedia several time for more info, but often I got exactly the information in the book!
I still give the book three stars. Maybe it is only a two star book, but I like it. That means if you are a voracious reader, you should pick it up. In any case, anyone should check out the author's other book (referenced above).
UPDATE: I have now read the whole book and have had time to reflect. I lower the rating to 2 stars. The writing gets messier and often even basic facts are no longer explained. It seems that the author got bored and just wanted to complete the book. I would not recommend the book to anyone.