Thursday, April 13, 2017

Picture Books : The Second World War In Photographs

I have a set of rules when it comes to books, some of which I have set myself whilst others have been imposed by my Good Lady Wife. Given my gas-like ability to expand my bookshelves into whatever space might be available she has imposed a "one in, one out rule" which requires the disposal of a volume before another can cross the threshold. The second rule I have imposed on myself, and that is that I will now only buy physical books which have as much space dedicated to pictures as to words. It is not that I am boycotting "word books", it is just that they have a home on my eBook Reader, a home that does not take up precious shelf-space.

If you look through a list of book genres, you will be hard pressed to find one entitled "picture books", but it is a genre I have become more and more fascinated by as I have got older. Theoretically, "picture books" can stray into the province of any of the traditional genres (see William Boyd's Sweet Caress as an example of a novel that makes excellent use of pictures), but they are best represented in the field of non-fiction, particularly history and travel. By providing occasional reviews of some of the picture books that make it into my collection, I get an excuse for sharing some of the images themselves (by definition a review of a picture book should be based just as much on images as on words).

Richard Holmes' "The Second World War In Photographs" is a splendidly weighty tome that is brim-full of archive images from the collection of the Imperial War Museum. These images provide a fascinating window into the life of both ordinary citizens and members of the armed forces during those tumultuous years of world war. The vast majority of the images are in monochrome, which somehow suits the spirit of the times (the occasional colour photograph appears almost unreal). The photographs not only tell the story of the conflict, but also the human story of millions of people whose lives were changed forever. It is the kind of book which clearly demonstrates that picture books can make a real contribution to the study of social history.

"The Second World War In Photographs" by Richard Holmes. Andre Deutche (2000)

1 comment:

  1. Enjoying these historical posts...Will look to see if your book is available here.


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