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Grand Prix Century: First 100 Years Of The…

Grand Prix Century: First 100 Years Of The World's Most Glamorous and…

by Christopher Hilton

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The problem with this book is the problem with just about all single-book histories that try to give you a blow by blow accounting of a complicated topic; you wind up with a chronicle of one damn thing after another. To put it another way, a person just trying to pick this book up to understand grand prix racing is going to be confronted by so many throwaway references in passing that I can't see how their comprehension and enjoyment would be improved. This really becomes clear when the author gets to a period like the 1970s, where there are just too many races to say something intelligent about them all and there is no transcendent driver whose career could illuminate the scene. That said, I enjoyed the many enlightening anecdotes that Hilton provides in passing; even if I see a real missed oppertunity to examine how the institutional structures of racing have evolved. ( )
  Shrike58 | Jun 23, 2009 |
It is unreasonable to expect an exhaustive analysis of 100 years in just 450-odd pages, yet 'Grand Prix Century' successfully distils issues and events into concise chunks that carry the reader on a tidal wave of discovery from the earliest gladiators to today's superstars. Very little of importance is missed, but do not expect a comprehensive dissection of every race.

Hilton's strong points are the human stories. His pen-portraits may be brief, but they are illuminating, his subjects treated sympathetically with a welcome directness. Also refreshing is his handling of some of the darker moments of the sport's history, where there is often a temptation for over-dramatisation.

The book shows a clear shift in technique as it progresses: the earlier years of gentlemen drivers and racing mechanics are treated quite expansively in a conventional flowing style. As the pace hots up, so does Hilton's narrative, at times even resorting to a kind of shorthand, snappy and to-the-point, that urges the reader ever forwards, reflecting the pace of modern life!

You might wonder why an average racing fan needs a book like this. I did too, and am still not entirely convinced on that score. Yet it is an excellent book, entertaining and thought-provoking, delivered in a manner that conveys excitement and drama. At the very least it begs a curious reader to delve deeper into areas less well known.

You won't buy 'Grand Prix Century' for the pictures, but there are four blocks of adequate, if mostly unexceptional, plates, some of the later ones in colour. The book is printed on low quality paper: my copy is already showing signs of age! ( )
1 vote JoolzMac | Mar 1, 2009 |
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This is one of the greatest stories ever told - a century of men and machines pitted against each other, death riding at their elbow, risking everything to win. In June 2006, Grand Prix racing will be 100 years old. Here, Christopher Hilton celebrates the full span.… (more)

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