Review: The Adventure of English, Melvyn Bragg

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

It would not be fair to say that I utterly disliked this book. What made me dislike this was the author’s directness: if he could put in a list of twenty words, he would. This is not necessarily a fault, but I have become used to the lazy tangents of Bill Bryson and Ryotaro Shiba who investigate even a side-question so thoroughly that the main topic never has the time to overwhelm.

One of my favourite parts in this book was where Mr Bragg wrote on Australia and colonial English — though admittedly the detail was rather scarce and it did look that it was more of a way to be able to write about swearing than anything else. The other sections — especially the chronological structure that the book adopted throughout — I was not so sold on.

Overall, it’s not that this is a bad book on the English language — it’s just that I’ve read better ones (the aforementioned Mr Bryson’s volume being one of those). I would recommend this, but the bent is definitely more academic than leisurely and though detail of everyday life comes through, it is more a history of the language which focusses on the occasional derivations of words and their relation to their sources.

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