Friday, 6 March 2015

The Assassin's Cloak

Bonus review: The Assassin's Cloak, ed. by Irene and Alan Taylor.

Under a disappointingly exciting title (the significance of which escapes me), this is an extensive and on the whole very enjoyable anthology of diary extracts. For each day of the year there is a collection of extracts written on that day at various points throughout history. There is also a section of brief alphabetised biographies of each person quoted, so the curious can find out some background for the quotes, followed by an index listing which dates each person appears in.

My only minor gripes are that a couple of fictional diarists are also included among the real-life ones (Adrian Mole and The Diary of a Provincial Lady), and the inconsistency in how many extracts come under each date. To be fair though, perhaps it proved difficult to find more than a few short quotes on some days, while it was easier on widely celebrated public holidays, the new year or the anniversaries of some great event to find more interesting excerpts.

The diaries come from a wide variety of people, from Samuel Pepys and Dorothy Wordsworth to Andy Warhol and Tony Benn. Particularly on days like Christmas, it's fascinating to see different peoples' reflections on the same celebrations throughout the years. Another particularly poignant aspect is the World Wars I and II diaries, especially accounts of life in the Weimar republic or in concentration camps.

A very interesting book to dip into every day, with fascinating glimpses into the lives of others throughout recent history.

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