'a beautifully produced book'
'an amazing 'one stop shop'
'has a relaxed style which makes it is easy to read'
'photographic content is also another great strength - some really rare finds'
'easy, authoritative, read of the unique history of a beautiful area, little spoiled by time'
‘delves deep to consolidate the 1000year old history of the Midhurst District'
'copiously and meticulously, researched work'
'generously and appropriately illustrated'
'offers riveting insight'
'written in a very personal, somewhat whimsical, inquisitive, humour laden, conversational way'
'friendly, “fireside" conversational style'
'thoughtfully employed anecdotes'
'uses devices to retain the continued interest of the reader'
Midhurst WW2 Memoirs 2. ‘Evil’ Rising: ‘Good’ Awakening, by Peter Sydenham, is a copiously and meticulously, researched work based around the author’s life journey and the many connections to his WW2 Midhurst - located 80kms South West of London - evacuation experience as a small child.
The genesis for this, the third book of his Memoirs series, occurred in 2013, when members of the Midhurst Society asked the author to give them a lecture on his childhood experiences. That led him seeking a better understanding of what was happening to him and others around him. The outcome was his Midhurst WW2 Memoirs project. To date he has researched and published two Midhurst WW2 Memoirs books, An Evacuee’s Story introduction and Book 1, A Place close to My Heart. This review is of Book 2, ‘Evil’ Rising: ‘Good’ Awakening.
Generously and appropriately illustrated (328 pictures in 564 pages) with pertinent and sometimes poignant images and quotes, the book offers riveting insight into the historical events, starting with the consequences of the end of WW1, leading up to WW2 and the connections of those momentous events with rural Midhurst.
It is well researched, combining non-fiction with instructive anecdotes from “people who were there” at the times covered by the book. Well written in a very personal, somewhat whimsical, inquisitive, humour laden, conversational style, it draws in the reader who is exhorted with intriguing hooks to remain interested. The exhortations take the form of the use of such literal devices as “As we shall see later”, or, “Shortly to be revealed.” and, “Tell me more you say.” as well as the occasional hints and helpful references to allow the reader to continue their own research or for them to wait for the promise “that matters will be dealt with in more detail in later books”.
As well as a tightly drafted, precis introduction to the mosaic of countries and unfolding events – some despairingly harrowing and some enlightening and uplifting - and effects of the two world wars on Midhurst, the surrounding areas and the individuals within those communities, in the first part of the book – the nature of which is subtly indicated by the disarmingly sinister, childish figure on the book’s clever front cover - the author easily segues to a description of the people of Midhurst and their roles, not only in the 2 world wars but also in the earlier history of Midhurst but, as well as in the wider post war world, including Australia.
This latter half of the book is written in a slightly more relaxed, friendly, “fireside,” conversational style than the compelling, but also friendly, first half background history, leading to the role which Midhurst played in those events and ultimately in the wider world.
Though also of real interest to all, even casual, readers, the latter half of the book with its different, relaxed rhythm, would be of particular interest and appeal to those readers with actual local knowledge of the area and the individuals mentioned as it provided a terrific portfolio of local Midhurst history and information: clear evidence of the extensive research and thoughtfully employed anecdotes, quotes and illustrations. For example, did you know that Ribbentrop considered himself as the future King of Cornwall?
The author continues his easy, smooth use of segues into the more locally focussed second half of the book and brings together many unexpected connections between people, places, topics and periods - such as unexpectedly revealing the unexpected WW1 links between Midhurst, Australia, Submarines and Gallipoli. Occasionally, because the author is so deeply involved in his subject and he clearly sees the matters that he is presenting and their connection with Midhurst, the links between the subjects and their relationship with Midhurst are a little obscure to this reader – though sometimes their relevance does become clearer at a later stage in the text – another devious device to retain the continued interest of the reader perhaps?
In all, an eminently readable, interesting, informative and well-crafted book supported by an astonishing number of references and an extensive index of the subjects and individuals mentioned in the text. His conversational style allows the author to share his personal, always interesting, valid and occasional humorous, pointed views on the matters, events and people he is discussing with the reader; further leading and involving the reader in the author’s subject.
Having read this and the author’s two previous books, I am becoming familiar with Midhurst and am looking forward to the pending publication of the Midhurst WW2 Memoirs books three and four.