REVIEWS

Surviving history... what would you have done? 


Here are selected reviews of my books. There are many more links on Wikipedia: Giles Milton

See my  links and contact  page for more information.

HISTORY BOOKS


Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922

Jeremy Seal’s review in The Daily Telegraph called the book: ‘A compelling story… Milton's considerable achievement is to deliver with characteristic clarity and colour this complex epic narrative, Milton brings a commendable impartiality to his thoroughly researched book.’

William Dalymple, writing in the Sunday Times, said: ‘It is the lives of the [Levantine] dynasties, recorded in their diaries and letters, that form the focus for Giles Milton’s brilliant re-creation of the last days of Smyrna…. Milton has written a grimly memorable book about one of the most important events in this process. It is well paced, even-handed and cleverly focused: through the prism of the Anglo-Levantines, he reconstructs both the pre-war Edwardian glory of Smyrna and its tragic end. He also clears up, once and for all, who burnt Smyrna, producing irrefutable evidence that the Turkish army brought in thousands of barrels from the Petroleum Company of Smyrna and poured them over the streets and houses of all but the Turkish quarter. 

Nicholas Bagnall, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, said: ‘The informed and scholarly author spares few details and brings it all alarmingly alive. I warmly recommend this book.’

Alev Adil, writing in the Independent, said of the book: ‘Giles Milton's engrossing account of the events leading up to the destruction of the city in 1922 is based largely on the previously unpublished letters and diaries of these Levantine dynasties. Milton's book celebrates the heroism of individuals who put lives before ideologies.

Writing in the Spectator Philip Mansel called the book ‘an indictment of nationalism … Milton has gone where biographers of Ataturk and historians of Turkey, who often want Turkish official support, have feared to tread. He has reproduced accounts by individual Armenian, Greek and foreign eye-witnesses, as well as British sailors’ and consuls’ accounts. It is a much needed corrective to official history.

Adam Le Bor, writing in the Literary Review, praised the book for its use of original sources. ‘Milton brings the past alive in this vivid, detailed and poignant book by drawing on family letters and archives, and first-hand interviews with those elderly survivors who remember Smyrna’s glory days.’ 


White Gold


Benedict Allen, writing in The Independent, picked White Gold as one of his Books of the Year (2004). 'A romping tale of 18th-century sailors enslaved by Barbary seafarers and sold to a Moroccan tyrant. It has all the usual Miltonian ingredients: swift narrative and swashbuckling high-drama laid on a bed of historical grit.’

In his review in The Observer, Dan Neill, felt the strength of the book was its use of contemporary documents. ‘Drawing on letters, journals and manuscripts written by the slaves . . . Milton has produced a disturbing account of the barbaric splendor of the imperial Moroccan court, which he brings to life with considerable panache…White Gold is an engrossing story, expertly told.’ 

In The Daily Mail, Peter Lewis called the book an ‘extraordinary, eye-opening and most readable revelation of a dark place and shameful episode in our history.’ 

Tim Ecott, writing in The Guardian, said the strength of the book lay in its two magnificent central characters, Thomas Pellow and Mulay Ismail. He concluded: ‘Milton has ingeniously retrieved and polished a hidden nugget from the remarkable treasure house of British history.’ 

Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s review in The Sunday Times concluded: ‘Milton’s story could scarcely be more action-packed and its setting and subsidiary characters are as fantastic as its events… Milton conjures up a horrifying but enthralling vision of the court of Moulay Ismail.’

In The Sunday Telegraph, Justin Marozzi, wrote: ‘White Gold is lively and diligently researched, a chronicle of cruelty on a grand scale… an unfailingly entertaining piece of history.’ 

Philip Hensher, writing in The Spectator, praised White Gold for being ‘extensively researched’ and concluded that it was ‘an exciting and sensational account of a really swashbuckling historical episode.’ 


Samurai William


Matthew Redhead, writing in The Times, said: ‘Giles Milton is a man who can take an event from history and make it come alive… He has a genius for lively prose, and an appreciation for historical credibility. With Samurai William, he has crafted an inspiration for those of us who believe that history can be exciting and entertaining.’

In The Sunday Times, Katie Hickman concluded: ‘Giles Milton has once again shown himself to be a master of historical narrative. The story of William Adams is a gripping tale of Jacobean derring-do, a fizzing, real-life Boy’s Own adventure underpinned by genuine scholarship.’

Writing in The New York Review, the scholarly critic Jonathan Spence was impressed by the use of documentary source material. ‘Giles Milton presents [Adams’s story] with undisguised gusto. His notes and bibliography make it clear that he has absorbed much of the voluminous secondary literature on this period and on Adams himself.’

Anthony Thwaite, writing in The Sunday Telegraph, agreed that the book strength lay in its source material. ‘Giles Milton has been assiduous in searching through all the published sources … if it brings more readers to the marvelous story of how West discovered East, and East discovered West, that’s good.’ 

In The New York Times, Susan Chira said that Milton had written ‘a vivid, scrupulously researched biography … it is a sheer pleasure to read Milton’s vivid portraits of the small corps of foreigners who traded at the sufferance of Japanese feudal lords.’ 

The Washington Times agreed: ‘He [Milton] recounts in graphic detail - much from primary sources - the astounding hardships and hardihood of those explorers of a dangerous unknown.’


Big Chief Elizabeth


Janet Maslin, writing in The New York Times, commented: ‘In an exceptionally pungent, amusing and accessible historical account, Giles Milton brings readers right into the midst of these colonists and their daunting American adventure... there’s no question that Mr Milton’s research has been prodigious and that it yields an entertaining, richly informative look at the past.’ 

In Britain’s Daily Mail, Peter Lewis wrote: ‘This grippingly told true adventure story is made all the more immediate by using lavish quotations in wild Elizabethan spelling.’

The Spectator also praised the author for bringing history to life. ‘Milton has a terrific eye for the kind of detail that can bring the past vividly to life off the page,’ wrote reviewer, Steve King. ‘He revels in the grim realities of the early colonists’ experience. There’s disease, famine, torture, cannibalism and every kind of deprivation imaginable. Milton’s findness for the faintly off-colour vignette makes for stomach-turning but compelling reading.’

The Sunday Times concluded: ‘Milton has amassed an impressive amount of information from original sources, and it is evidence from Elizabethan journals that makes this such a vivid story.’ 

Writing in The Guardian, Sukhdev Sandhu said: ‘It’s almost impossible to summarise Milton’s book, from which marvelous, vivid stories spill out like swagsack booty.’ 


Nathaniel's Nutmeg


Martin Booth, writing in The Times, said: ‘His research is impeccable and his narrative reads in part like a modern-day Robert Louis Stevenson novel.’ 

Nicholas Fearn in The Independent on Sunday wrote: ‘This book is a magnificent piece of popular history. It is an English story, but its heroism is universal. This is a book to read, reread, then, aside from the X-rated penultimate chapter, read again to your children.’ 

In The Spectator, Philip Hensher wrote: ‘To write a book which makes the reader, after finishing it, sit in a trance, lost in his passionate desire to pack a suitcase and go, somehow, to the fabulous place - that, in the end, is something one would give a sack of nutmegs for.’

Time Magazine said of Nathaniel’s Nutmeg: ‘Milton spins a fascinating tale of swashbuckling adventure, courage and cruelty, as nations and entrepreneurs fought for a piece of the nutmeg action.’ 



The Riddle and the Knight

Bernard Hamilton, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, noted: 'Although he [Milton] makes no claim to be writing an academic study... he has clearly done a good deal of research into published sources and unpublished records.' He adds: 'Were Sir John alive today, I am sure he would have read Milton's book.'

Anthony Sattin, writing in The Sunday Times, said of the book: 'In the style of true medieval quest, each answer poses another question.' He added: 'The one thing that is irrefutably clear by the final page is that Mandeville's argument that the world was round had an enormous influence on the age of exploration.' 

Jason Goodwin, reviewing the book in Punch magazine, concluded: 'We travel with him [Milton] in the end because he has done his research in the British Library... Milton has scaled a mountain of research, and the twist he gives Mandeville's story is made with elegance and conviction.'







FICTION BOOKS


According to Arnold

Harrie Ritchie, writing in the Daily Mail, said: 'According to Arnold is as ingenious and learned as you'd expect of Giles Milton - better known as a somewhat maverick historian - and it has both that excellent big idea of the regal conspiracy at its heart and a superbly lurking theme about grass-is-greener male sexual yearning waiting in the wings. It's also well written with a very readable light tone and many an inventive image.' 

Anthony Gardner, writing in the Mail on Sunday, concluded his review: 'A highly entertaining fantasy, Milton's novel is perfect for anyone obsessed with conspiracy theories.' 

In her review for www.thebookbag.co.uk, Katie Pullen said: 
'According to Arnold is probably one of the most weird and wonderful books I have come across in recent times. A novel centred around mushrooms seemed a little odd and I thought how on earth is Giles Milton going to get mileage out of this? However, their part in the novel is fascinating, intriguing and highly plausible... 
'As Arnold tells his tales of mushrooms, his new life on the lush and verdant island of Tuva, and the conspiracy surrounding him you can tell Milton has a major interest in history... Arnold’s story itself is wonderfully surreal in places, and is extremely absorbing and amusing to read... 
'In case you hadn’t guessed by now I really enjoyed this book. As well as the brilliant and at times surreal plot, Milton’s writing is first class, clever and witty, and he clearly has a very vivid imagination. He keeps his cast of characters to a minimum, which allows the wonderfully elaborate plot to take centre stage, as it clearly should in this unique, funny and very fulfilling read. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.'

Edward Trencom's Nose

Ian Sansom, writing in The Guardian, said: 'Don't read this book: it will only make you fat. Giles Milton's descriptions of cheese in Edward Trencom's Nose are so tempting and so unrelenting that by the end of the book you'll be eating époisses for breakfast and snacking throughout the day on double gloucester. If you must read it, stock up on plenty of crackers . . . Readers will perhaps be familiar with Milton's work as a historian - he is the author of a number of entertaining history books, most notably Nathaniel's Nutmeg (1999), his bestselling book about the 18th-century spice wars. Edward Trencom's Nose is his first novel and, perhaps not surprisingly, it's a historian's novel, the plot consisting largely of numerous episodes and detours into Trencom and Byzantine history . . . Comic novels are difficult to write: any old halfwit can produce 400 pages of stinking high seriousness, but it takes a real wit to manage 400 pages of mild, fragrant good humour. Edward Trencom's Nose is a whimsical wheel of a book: creamy, light, powdery, with a nice bloomy rind; recommended with a sauvignon blanc.'

Simon Baker, writing for the Literary Review, said: 'Edward Trencom's Nose is a perfect example of eccentric English wit . . . this elegantly written novel is clever and immensely charming. Milton has written several works of history . . . [and] Edward Trencom's Nose benefits from its author's sound historical knowledge. A great tale of unlikely heroism, fortitude and fromage.' 

The Daily Express called the book: ''an incredible adventure...it is a story which stretches the imagination...rich, rather English and completely nutty'      

CHILDREN'S BOOKS


Zebedee's Zoo


Keith Dudhnath, reviewing the book for www.thebookbag.co.uk said: 'I really enjoyed Zebedee's Zoo. It's great fun to see how the animals get one over on their keeper, and the party is bubbly and energetic, as parties always are . . .

'The change of pace from sleep to awake will bring even the youngest of children in on the joke. Everyone will wish they were sucking up a bowlful of strawberry jelly, just like the gorilla. It's exciting, engaging and bristling with humour . . .

'There are strong rhymes throughout, which makes it perfect for reading aloud. Throw in a few animal noises here and there, and Zebedee's Zoo will be a much-loved favourite that they'll want you to read again and again. 

The Bookseller said: 'Giles Milton's first children's book is a winner.' 

The Bookseller's Childrens Buyers Guide said: 'Giles Milton’s first children’s book is a winner! It’s fun to read aloud, bursts with colour and describes how at night the zoo animals come to life to party. A great joke on the keeper that kids will love.'

The Cork Evening Echo called it 'a riot of a picture book' while Nursery World said: 'Children will love the humour, pace and variety within this story.' The Daily Echo called it 'great read-aloud prose.'

Call Me Gorgeous


The Bookseller said of the book: 'Here is a debut picture book that not only deserves to be examined closely, but also stood well back from and gazed at in awe.' 

The Bookseller Childrens Buyers Guide said: 'This husband and wife team have created a truly original creature, one that will puzzle and delight the family. Stunning collage effects and cover will make sure that this stands out. Definitely one to watch out for.'

Publishers Weekly said: 'It will have kids in stitches... this unique book is as fun and brassy as it is visually striking.'  

According to Books for Keeps, 'This book is a delightful puzzle for a small reader and it ends in a good joke. On the way, there is much to marvel at in the intricate beauty of the animal world so intensely conveyed in Alexandra Milton's stunning illustration.'



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