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Making History - Stephen Fry

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Author: Stephen Fry / Genre: Fiction

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

    12 Reviews
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      25.03.2012 01:57

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      A very good book, and an enjoyable read

      While I am more a fan of non-fiction writing, a friend of mine suggested that I read Stephen Fry's Making History. I took him up on the offer and I am very glad that I did.
      At first the book started off very slow, and it took me a while to get used to the alternating chapters that are used in the opening stages of the book. However, without this the story would not have been put across so well.
      This was the first novel I had read of Fry's, and I found the writing to be very witty and insightful, as well as very informative, as it is very clear that Fry had taken a lot of time to research the subject that the novel is based on.
      At around the half way point of the book I found it very difficult to put down. Once the story picks up and you manage to understand why the alternating chapters have been used it becomes very exciting.
      Overall the book is very good, as it takes a very serious subject and manages to add wit and humour, without making the entire thing seem like a big joke.

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      17.02.2011 14:36
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      An intellectual read, for when your brain has enough energy to work it out

      Stephen Fry is someone i admire very much for his intelligence and wit, and i have enjoyed watching him on the telly for a number of years in shows like Jeeves and Wooster and more recently, in QI. I did know he was an author, but i had never read any of his work before reading this novel, and i was interested to read it and see if his talents worked equally as well in written format.

      This is a fictional novel, in the science fiction genre. It is rather long at 572 pages, and is subdivided into book one and two. The plot is quite complicated, and it is hard to explain it completely without givng away huge amounts of plot, so i will try to describe it and my thoughts on it best as i can.

      The main character is a man called Michael Young, a PHD student writing his thesis on Adolf Hitlers early formative years, based at Cambridge University. The setting could be as modern as today in my mind, or 10 years ago. The first book focuses on his meeting another professor at the University, a Leo Zuckerman who is a physicist harbouring secrets of his own relating to his families past in Germany. We switch between the present day in England, and the early 20th Century in Austria and Germany during this part of the novel. The men don't like the way history went in the past, but can there knowledge prevent history?

      At the end of book one, something happens that alters all of their lives. Mikey is now at Princeton University, USA. He is struggling to come to terms with the actions of his in the previous book, learning that all actions have consequences, and you can't always make things turn out the way you desire.

      The second book follows the format of the first one, with some scenes containing Mikeys interactions in the present with friends, acquantainces, and a man called Bauer. The book also contains scenes set in world war 2. In this half, again can actions affect consequences.

      I at first found this book pretty hard going. I liked the sections that were set in the present day a lot, but i was not enjoying the bits concerning Adolf Hitlers childhood. I wasn't sure how i wanted to feel about this person who is a very real character. If it was a fictional character i would have felt compassion for the boy, but knowing what i do of history, i could not allow myself any compassion at all for the mans actions. By the end of the first book though, i felt the scene had been set well, and i was pretty engrossed in the book.

      Book 2 was a lot more enjoyable as i could see better how it all related together.

      The writing style was fairly similar in both books. They both had short sections that were written in the style of a film or TV script. These bits did not fit well for me at all, and i felt they spoiled the flow of what i had then begone to think of as a very good novel.

      This book has obviously been well researched and written in what i would call an intellectual manner. I enjoyed it because i come from a background of having attended University and been part of the scientific community there. It had commonality with my viewpoints.

      I can see it being the sort of book that some people would give up on very easily if the subject matter of Auschwitz and genocide are too sensitive, or if you don't like books that require you to think too much.

      I am going to give it a 4 star rating as i did enjoy it once i got into it, and the knocked off star is for taking too long to set the scene and also the mis-placed scripted sections i referred to earlier. Prepare for it to take a while to get through.

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      04.09.2009 22:04
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      A brilliant read

      This is the second Stephen Fry book I've read; the first being "The Liar".

      Making History is a very difficult book for me to describe. It is very complicated and has lots of different threads running through it, and I don't want to spoil it, but I shall try my best to paint a picture of what it's about.

      Michael Young is a twenty-four year old Cambridge PhD student who has just completed his final dissertation and is ready to hand it in to his Professor. Michael has a girlfriend called Jane who is two years older and treats him badly. His dissertation, without ruining the book, is about twentieth century German history. After a series of mishaps, before handing the dissertation in, he manages to drop it out of its briefcase, sending dozens of sheets of paper flying around a car park. Some of the sheets are collected by a Professor Zuckermann, who can't help but read some of the papers, and he takes an interest in Michael and his dissertation.

      As you can probably gather from the cover, Making History is also about the most evil man who ever lived, Adolf Hitler. In this book, Stephen Fry asks the question many of us have wondered; "What would the world be like if Hitler hadn't risen to prominence and carried out some of the most atrocious acts ever committed?" Fry also attempts to answer this question, and that is mainly what this book is about.

      This is all pulled off by Fry extremely well. Noone can doubt the sheer brilliance of this book. He tackles some delicate issues in the book with sensitivity. He gives extraordinarily well-written and "encyclopaedic" accounts of history.

      I marvel at the imagination of this author. The ideas conjured up in this book are truly spectacular.

      Different sections of the book complement each other very well, and there are some sweet little twists.

      It's definitely a thinking person's book, there is lots of German language and intellectual teasers to sink your teeth into.

      I didn't find all of it perfect though.

      I found Michael Young's character to be quite irritating to be honest. In the first part of the book he is a doormat, he is weak, and he seems to have the personality of a shopping trolley. Yet, in the second part, he becomes an heroic genius. That didn't really ring true to me. Also, near the end of it, he changes quite a fundamental aspect of his identity, which doesn't make any sense, as well as a decision he makes about his dissertation.

      This novel is depressing. Most of what you read is about the darkest period in human history. There really isn't much in this book to be cheerful about.

      Parts of it are excellently written, but it's not as well-written as The Liar. Also, I felt a lot of Michael's narration quite tedious, he just seems to drone on too much. A considerable part of the book could have been left out really.

      Nevertheless, this is an amazing book to read. It certainly gives you food for thought.

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        10.08.2009 23:24

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        brilliant intellectual read.

        As many of us are - I have always been a fan of Stephen Fry's wit and humour, and his general overall genius mind is equally fascinating as it is intimidating. This transpires perfectly into his writing, and Making History is one of the best reads I have ever come across.

        The story is unique in its style, 2 stories running adjacently throughout. It does take a little getting used to in the first few chapters, but once you get into the swing of it you simply can't put it down. I would definately not recommend reading this before bed... as you end up with "just one more chapter... i'll just finish this page" syndrome and before you know it the milkman is scuttling down the street and the morning chorus has begun!

        It is an interesting and part factual look at our history, and is a real eye opener. Rather philisophical and is as intriguing as it is ingenius.

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        30.07.2009 16:37
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        Try it you might enjoy it!

        I recently ran out of books to read and went hunting around my local library for inspiration.

        I am a recently converted fan of Stephen Fry having previously thought him snobbish and overbearing. I saw an episode of the TV quiz show QI hosted by Fry quite recently and must say that I am now converted and even watch Kingdom. My brother has been a fan of Fry's for many years and couldn't understand my attitude.

        Anyway, I discovered a book in my local library called 'Making History' by Stephen Fry. I had heard of a few of his other books and have even bought them as gifts for my brother but this one I hadn't heard of.

        The cover showed lots of tiny computer mice swimming across the front of the book like a lot of little sperm and I was intrigued to find out what the book was about. I had my three young children with me so there was no time to study the blurb on the back as they were causing havoc and lots of silver surfers were beginning to tut! I took my book home excitedly and looked forward to a few minutes peace when I could start reading.

        Now I must admit that I found the book quite hard going and at first I wondered what I had bought home with me. The main character in the book is called Michael Young and he has just completed a History thesis at Cambridge. One day Michael literally bumps into Leo Zuckerman who is a physicist at the University and the two of them end up altering the course of history and travelling through time and allsorts. I was quite confused at times but also couldn't put the book down because I wanted to know what happened next.

        In my defence I only read for a few minutes before I go to sleep at night and I am currently pregnant and so completely exhausted but I did struggle to get into the book at first. The story seemed to jump from one to character to another from chapter to chapter and even back in time and then back to the present. Once I got used to this I did find it much easier to get on with but I do admit that I did skip some of the stuff going on in the Second World War.

        All in all I felt the book was very well written and I would definitely read another of Stephen Fry's books. There were some twists in the story that were a little obvious but this didn't affect my enjoyment or the story as a whole. Stephen Fry is obviously a very clever chap and this book goes to show that he knows his stuff but some of it was just a bit too much for me. I enjoyed the story of Michael and Leo but all the history stuff was quite a struggle to get through at times.

        I think any fan of Fry's would enjoy the book and I would definitely suggest than anyone give it a go.

        The book is currently available on www.amazon.co.uk for £5.49 paperback.

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          28.07.2009 19:40
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          This is, like, really annoying, know what I mean, yeah?

          Everyone likes Stephen Fry and I'm no exception. I once heard him described as, "the stupid person's clever person" which still makes me chuckle every time I remember it. Though I'm a 'fan' (I love his character in Blackadder Goes Forth and he as himself in telly quiz Q.I.) I'd never read one of Fry's novels before (he's written four, I believe) and I didn't even buy this, as it was a Christmas present. Unfortunately, if this one is anything to go by, I won't be actively seeking out any of his others (though if I get another as a present I'll give it a go).

          The story concerns a history student (of Cambridge - where else?) named Michael Young, who is due to submit his thesis, which he sincerely believes to be a brilliant example of historical scholarship, when he wakes up to find his girlfriend has finally dumped him due to his relentless apathy where she is concerned. Appropriately enough, he doesn't seem to mind overly much. Michael accidentally receives some misdirected mail and so meets a physics professor at the university named Leo Zuckerman. It emerges when they talk that Michael's thesis is about the life of the young Adolf Hitler, and also that Professor Zuckerman lived through Nazi Germany, and it is heavily implied that he is the survivor of a concentration camp. Incredibly, Professor Zuckerman has invented a time machine, which Michael and he decide to use to alter history (I won't go into the 'how' details) by stopping Adolf Hitler being born. This they then do, and it has surprising and disastrous consequences.

          First, the good stuff. The novel is structured so that each chapter alternates between Michael and the world of Adolf Hitler's parents. These chapters, following Alois and Kara Hitler, are by far the best thing about the novel. Each chapter is short and solidly written. Fry succeeds in putting flesh on the bones of these folk who we know relatively little about and who would be utterly unremarkable to history, of course, were it not for their child. I thought Alois, Adolf's father, was a well painted as a horrible, dour, miserable and vindictive man who ruled his family through fear. Kara is imagined as a sweet girl, determined to do her familial duty and live with this awful man, taking refuge in the love she has for her children.

          Also very good are the chapters that show Adolf in the trenches in WWI, as a sneaky soldier who manipulates an aristocratic officer into getting himself killed. It's darkly humorous as we see the young Hitler through the eyes of his fellow soldiers as an intense and unsettling man. The comedy comes of course from his comrades' ignorance of Hitler's future.

          The way that Fry has history unfolding after the non-existence of Hitler is very well done and demonstrates that oftentimes, and despite our inclination to the contrary, the development of events are to do with more than the life of any one man, no matter how remarkable that man is. Put simply, without a Hitler, another, more successful leader takes his place.

          But that's the good stuff, what about the bad? Well, this book is ruined for me by the character of Michael. It is told from the first person perspective and he is very, very irritating indeed. It is obvious that he is actually meant to be a bit of a plum, with other characters picking him up on the way he speaks, but Fry takes it to a ludicrous degree. Through Michael's voice, the style of narration is infuriatingly infantile, the majority of it is reminiscent of a sixteen-year-old's first attempt at writing. It's jokey colloquialisms are tedious in the extreme, with endless asides in the "Well, if you know what I mean" style getting old after the opening paragraph (e.g. "This story starts for me - and it is, after all, my story and no one else's, never could be anyone else's but mine"). Because of this the writing does not flow and makes for a wearying read.

          That's pretty much my only criticism but it is a major one. I didn't want to be spending any time in this guy's company, let alone a whole novel's worth. For this alone, I have to deduct two whole stars. Other than that, all the other characters from today's time are paper-thin and instantly forgettable, as well as also being quite annoying. I would say the author is far better at imagining and expressing historical characters and cannot quite create them from scratch. There are also a couple of chapters that are written in the form of a screenplay. This is to create a sense of otherness from the main story but is, again, just irritating and jarring. Why would I want to read a screenplay in the middle of a novel? Again, it seems rather an immature device.

          This is a novel with a clever premise and it is a shame that it doesn't live up to it as it could have been so much better. I think Fry needed his editor to give him a slap and send him back to the computer to sort it out, as I'm sure would have happened with a novelist who wasn't such a celebrity. Having said all that, I still haven't given this book to a charity shop despite opportunities to do so, largely because the alternate history aspect is good and I may at some point read these parts again, skipping all the other bits. I would recommend it for fans of WWII-era history and the alternate history genre only.

          I still think Stephen Fry's a lovely chap though.

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            20.05.2002 18:49
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            Stephen Fry is probably best known for his TV work, but he's an amazingly diverse man, and his books (unlike many celeb offerings) are well worth a read. My brother is a big Fry fan, and as a result most years gets several copies of the latest offering as prensets. I've done quite well out of this, and have a few generous souls to thank for my introduction to Fry's writings. The plot: Mike headed off to university with visions of re-inventing himself. He decided "Puck' would be an excellent nickname(Shakespeareane faerie)but an unfortunate mishearing landed him with "Pup" and he's never got rid of it. He manages to acquire a girlfriend who does weird science research, and a mentor obsessed with Hitler. Some sci fi stuff ensues. The question is, what would happen if Hitler had never existed? Pup wakes up in America, not in his English university. People are confused - why does he suddenly have an English accent - his parents came from the UK to escape the troubles, and it all looks very suspicious. Pup is confused almost to the point of insanity, because none of it makes much sense and no one will believe him, save for one really sweet male student who seems open minded. The America Pup finds himself in is not a pleasant place - deeply prejudiced against Europe, massively homophobic and fearful of any deviation fom the norm. Not perhaps an ideal setting in which to start re-evaluating your sexual preferences. It is an alarming vision of how the world might have wound up if the second world war had happened differently. One of the key points that Fry makes is that Germany was ready for someone like Hitler - social conditions had created a space for such a ader, and if Hitler had not existed, someone else might have stepped in to fill the breach. It is possible to be worse than Hitler, in various ways, even if that's not your aim. It is also true that the rest of the world elarned a lot
            from its expereinces during world war 2, and without that we may have all ended up in a very different place. "Making History" is quite a morally provocative tale, it manages to be funny, thoughtful and weepy at different times, there's a really heartwarming romance. It is deeply improbable, but it isn't a book about realism, so there's no point trying to read it as such - this is a peice of fantasy that allows Fry to explore some itneresting concepts and questions. I would recomend it - it's quite an easy read but it does give you some things to take away and mull over.

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              08.03.2001 16:49
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              Stephen Fry’s novel ‘Making History’ is difficult to categorise, as it does not fit into just one genre. A comedy Science Fiction? A romantic comedy? A time-travelling thriller or a lesson in ethics? ‘Making History’ is all these things and more. Adolf Hitler. Considered one of the most evil men in history. Auschwitz, the death of thousands of people, the bombing of London, the list goes on. Have you ever imagined what it would be like if Hitler were never born? Would the world be a better place? What if you could somehow go back in time and make that happen? Would you do it? This is the main premise for ‘Making History’. Fry delivers a riveting novel that explores the ethical and moral considerations of such an exercise if it was ever possible with clarity, comedy and sincerity. Stephen Fry, best known for his comedy with writing and acting partner Hugh Laurie and a trip to Bruges in 1996 has had a fascinating career. Fry has written a best selling musical ‘Me and My Girl’, appeared in comedy and serious drama films, written his autobiography of his first 18 years ‘Moab is My Washpot’ and of course a best selling novelist. ‘Making History’ is probably his finest literary work. The genious of ‘Making History’ lies in two areas. 1 – A fluid writing style that aids the reader in not putting the book down. Fry writes with such awe and excitement. His comic observations on everyday life make even the ordinary and mundane seem hilarious, from parking a car to the difficulties of relationships. 2 – An original idea. Fry’s innovative idea for his novel brings the pages to life as together we discover the implications of time travel and wiping out one of the most dangerous men in history. Would life be any better? Did good come from Hitler’s reign? What puts Fry apart from other writers if Hitler is that he
              acknowledges The Holocaust did not just feature the murder of Jews but also gay people, disabled people and generally anybody who did not fit into the Nazi ideal. This theme is explored with wit and innovation. The last hundred pages of the novel are filled with a romantic sub-plot that will leave you feeling genuinely surprised and full of warmth. ‘Making History’ – a comedy Science Fiction, a romantic comedy, a time-travelling thriller with ethical and historical observations. Read it and watch history unravel before your eyes.

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                18.02.2001 08:58
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                If you have read more than one Stephen Fry novel, a pattern starts to emerge. He crams every story full of his own personal passions. It is never very far into a tale, before academia, oxbridge, and the secret services rear their beautiful, well-groomed heads. We are always treated to an underlying threat of plot line, which seeks to alianate the most sympathetic characters, excommunicating them from the rest of society. History usually makes an appearance at some point, and as the title suggests, it is the central theme of the treat that is 'Making History'. Fry's re-using of his own enthusiasms does not in anyway detract from his fabulous story telling abilities, if anything, one becomes as addicted to these themes as he is himself, as with each page we turn a familiar corner and enter a comfortable place that we have visited before in a different time, different story, It is this fabulous idea of de jar vu, the concept of revisiting somewhere familiar and yet different, a small change to the past, an ancester taking a different path. Like ripples on a pond, ever decreasing circles, dominoes toppling, a small alteration to life's blueprint that changes everything, which is at the heart of 'Making History'. "If only I'd done things differently". Oh how many of us at some point have wanted to go back and change things, but what about the 'now' that we are living, would that vanish with the missing link? 'Making History' explores the ideas of fate and of the pre-ordained. It asks that we concider the pasts effect on our here and now, and with these lofty and philosophical questions it takes us on a mad roller coaster of a sci-fi, time-travel adventure. Incidentally, for those fans of 'other' genres, 'Making History' also has the most achingly romatic last few chapters of any book I've read since 'Wuthering Heights', a testament I think t
                o Fry's ability to play with different styles, blending them seamlessly into a great read!

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                  08.09.2000 02:16
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                  19.08.2000 16:54
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                  This is a brilliant book. The concept is incredible and the writing is Fry's own liquid style. His third fiction novel after Liar! and the Hippopotamus this is by far the best, the easiest to read and the cleverest although not quite as funny as the others. Fry asks the reader to imagine a world where Hitler does not exist. He then explains what that world would be like or more importantly who would have taken his place. An incredible book that I was glued to from front cover to last page. I could not put this down and remember it as a very important book in my life. I cannot recommend this highly enough.

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                  12.08.2000 04:16
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                  Fry is on form again with this, the second of his Novels. There is no other author around that can surpass Fry, in my opinion, in terms of wit, style and pure genius. This book differs from his others in that it is entirely unbelievable, yet the thought and effort that is undoubtedly put in by Fry to create a work of such comical genius makes this a great and thought provoking book. Our hero is cast into a new world after being dumped by his girlfriend, and being discovered by an old professor with a dark family secret. This secret drives the professor to alter history to such an extent that the protagonist end’s up in America, but an entirely different America. Where black people still have no rights, and Homosexuality is illegal, and worst of all the professors’ history has just become a little darker. This truly is a literary masterpiece that should be read by everyone

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