Quirky History is a funny, sideways glance at moments of British history, and would make a perfect gift for all ages, says Julia Jones
John Quirk’s witty, confident drawings will already be familiar to many readers.
As an architect by profession, he can draw boats, planes, machines with absolute certainty, both of line and detail.
His pictures of people are also very funny. His characters often display a trademark sly, sideways, glance which seems perfect for this slanted take on history.
His writing is equally assured.
Quirk selects 25 ‘maritime moments’ ranging from Henry V’s channel crossing to invade France in 1415, to an episode from the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5, and several lesser-known incidents from World Wars One and Two.
His approach is not dissimilar to the original volumes in Terry Deary’s ‘Horrible History’ series, presenting unexpected facts in a way that startles or provokes but is found to be accurate.
How many arrows do you think Henry V took with him to Agincourt? What was the cruelly effective technique which ensured that shafts could be withdrawn whilst arrow heads remained embedded? This is a book with potential to appeal to a wide age range.
Not all the narratives come from military history.
The Lynmouth Lifeboat Rescue is included and some distressingly topical facts about contagion-spreading ships of earlier times.
Readers ready to be awed by technical achievement will marvel at the description of the precision metal-work required to remove an arrowhead from Henry Prince of Wales’s face after the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403.
Does it matter that Quirky History’s simplified narrative suggests that the 16-year-old Henry was then King and leading the army, when in fact his father Henry IV was still reigning and in overall charge?
Probably not, as the Prince of Wales’s leadership was crucial to the royalist success in this confused and unpleasant encounter – just as Quirk claims.
A book billed as ‘quirky’ is likely to be opinionated, individual and occasionally provocative.
John Quirk’s book is all of these things. It’s also clever and funny and will make an attractive gift.
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