Title: Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London
Author: Nigel Jones
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Rating:4 out of 5
In this comprehensive volume, historian Nigel Jones takes the reader through the history of the Tower of London, reflecting on its different functions over the years. He not only discusses the physical history of the buildings on the site, but also the history that’s been made (and unmade) in the Tower.
I’m slightly (and morbidly) obsessed with the Tower of London. It’s a must visit every time I’m in London. No matter how many times I go, I always feel the need to return. The walls hold so much history and so many ghosts; I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stories that stem from there. So when I heard about Nigel Jones’ biography of the Tower, I was immediately intrigued.
Jones’ Tower is roughly organized chronologically, which is a good way to approach the material, but he also divides it by function to a certain extent. As a result, it can feel jumbled at times, but overall, the reader gets a thorough and comprehensive look at the Tower’s functions and role through British history. It doesn’t go too in depth with specific periods in history, nor does it function as a biography of those associated with the Tower. The book’s function is to summarize, and it does that extremely well.
The author does inject his opinions into Tower, which can be entertaining (clearly, he didn’t think much of the impulses of the Tudors), but it’s also frustrating at times when you’re just trying to learn about the history. If you share the author’s opinions, you’re likely to be more amused by it than if he’s badmouthing one of your favorite historical personages. Basically, this is by no means an unbiased account, so if that type of things turns you off, you should keep that in mind when considering this book.
Despite its few shortcomings, Tower is an entertaining read full of gore, mayhem, and conspiracy. If you have as much of a fascination with the Tower of London (and British history in general) as I do, this book should go on your must-read list. It’s informative and entertaining, but be sure to have a computer or tablet at your side while reading it. For some strange reason, it doesn’t include maps of the Tower, and you’ll definitely want to be able to visualize what Jones describes while you’re devouring this book.