How will the world see the 20th century a hundred years from now? For many, it was like living right on the edge of a turbulent ocean that threatened to engulf them; and sometimes it did. In this thoughtful book, Mike Robbins looks at the century just gone through those who lived it, and the books they left behind.
Robbins includes some very different perspectives. What was it like to crew the last great sailing ships? How did it feel to be an ordinary man—or a Chinese labourer—on the Western Front? How did a popular Jewish writer react to the rise of fascism? Who wrote detective novels in the 1930s, and who read them? And how has it all looked from the saddle of a bike? It is a varied selection. However, these pieces have something in common; they use one or more books (or in one case, TV programmes) to give a picture of a given time or incident. A further thread that ties these chapters together, it is that most of the books show us the last 100 years of history through the eyes of those that lived it. After all, history isn't a collective experience for an individual. It's what happened to them and those close to them.
The years covered in this book (roughly, 1912 to the present) certainly showed us more of a stormy sea than we should have liked. As it was published (April 2022), the cold grey water was back with a vengeance. But it has not always been that way. This book has its darker bits, but there were lighter times and the reader will find a few of them in its pages.