The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean - David Abulafia Good grief finally done. This really, really long. I was desperately checking how many pages I had left already by page 600 or so.

It's not entirely terrible - theres lots of interesting episodes, anecdotes and details that are fun. Ocassionally, theres even a whole few pages of coherent information about something that I actually understand - technology, language, trade, physical conditions of slaves, etc. This is actual stuff about actual stuff, and I find it interesting.

The problem is that it's interspersed amongst hundreds and hundreds of pages of "so in this period the ascendant Valencians moved against Syracuse, which contributed to the decline of Alexandria and blah blah blah." WHAT DOES THIS EVEN MEAN? Is there some sort of history-writing code which I have missed the memo on? Did they steal their boats? Burn their city? Send them stiff letters? What? I just have no interest whatsoever in this kind of geopolitics recap of a thousand years ago - not as any kind of normative statement, it just bores me. It doesn't mean anything to me, as a modern reader, whether Genoa or Carthage is ascendant at a given moment in the 1100's or what.

So theres lots of that, and it never really added up for me into a coherent history or sweeping sense of history for the region - it's too big and too dense. Which is ok, I don't think it had to, but the book is kind of stuck in limbo of being both too big and not big enough.

Then theres the sort-of-political sort-of-nostalgia stuff, which i'm probably exagerrating, but hey, it's my review and I can see political bugbears if I want to. Everything is political after all. Yes, yes, we get it, the place was just lovely in all those simply lovely port cities which were so diverse and cosmopolitan and where all those Greeks and Turks and Jews and Arabs and Albanians and Everyone got along so well (and were especially lovely to their neighbours during the race riots, in one memorable paragraph that Abulafia appears to have genuinely missed the irony of completely) and how awful that it all stopped with all that sad ugly nationalism business. It seems to me that this so much classist tripe that is a manufactured nostalgia of second generation post-exiles of westernized, wealthy elites, but what do I know?

Anyway, not really recommended. Too big and disjointed to be all that interesting.