Written by Ellis Ian Fields
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Monday, 27 June 2011

image for History Review: The Pursuit Of Italy, by David Gilmour

Subtitle: A History of a Land, its Regions and their Peoples

Ever since the Risorgimento, there has been debate about whether the unification of Italy of 1860-61 was a 'a good thing.' David Gilmour argues that it was not.

Ken Lucid assesses his case:

Back in my student days I shared a house with six others - there were four of us guys and three girls. We were a pretty mixed bunch, and also popular - big house, run by students... parties. We had a time of it.

Anyway, one of the of the guys was Irish and liked to put out this whole "I'm a bit odd, me" schtick. You know the type - he'd disappear from the pub and turn up next day saying: "Yeah, y'know? I had to, like, just go somewhere."

One night he did one of these leaving-the-pub things and we just thought we'd see him in the morning. But when we got back to the house the place was in darkness but Pink Floyd was blaring from the lounge. Neighbours weren't pleased.

Turns out he was in there, curled up and wedged into a tiny corner behind an armchair.

"Yeah, y'know. I just have to do that sometimes. Get into a dark corner and listen to Dark Side of the Moon really loud."

Really odd. Yeah right! Attention-seeking geek. I wonder if he's still around - he used to smother his food in salt. I kid you not - you could have held speed trials on his plate after he'd finished with the salt cellar.

I bring this up because this book reminded me of him. I mean, I saw the author's name, David Gilmour, and I immediately thought of the Floyd's wielder of the Fender Stratocaster.

It's not the same guy - I checked. Mind you - it wouldn't have been that unusual, would it? I mean, a rock legend doing serious academic stuff (although Gilmour admits this isn't an academic work). Look at that Brian May guy from Queen - went back and finished his doctorate in astrophysics a few years back. Old "Einstein" Cushions over in the science centre here became a Queen fan for a couple of months after that.

Hey! Maybe I should get the band back together. Wonder what Nige and Tim are up to these days...

The bloke who reviewed this for History Today suggested readers stopped reading at page 238. What a pillock! Remind me never to send him anything of mine for review.

Look, it's a quirky read but enjoyable for that. It's not an academic work by any stretch, but, hey, it would be a bit dull if that's all "history" was, wouldn't it?

(Stop press: I can still do House of the Rising Sun and Brown Sugar! Yeah, let's do it!)

Ken Lucid is head of history at Maidenhead University.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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