Thursday, 1 October 2015

Weird Wessex review

When I was a teenager I absolutely loved guidebooks to weird and wonderful aspects of Britain, and though I haven't looked at one in a long time, Weird Wessex, by Paul Jackson and Andrew May, brought it all back, with its enticing combination of very ordinary British locations and very strange buildings, monuments and legends.

The book consists of a series of short, factual illustrated articles. These don't tend to have too much narrative, concentrating primarily on being informative. Sometimes I felt that the text was too short - for instance, the Stonehenge section doesn't mention the increasingly strong evidence that the monument's most significant alignment is mid-winter, with the mid-summer alignment mentioned in the text being little more than an inevitable side-effect.

I did spot a minor error (or possibly sanitisation) - we're told Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin married Shelley in 1814. In reality this was the year that they began their relationship, and they didn't marry until 1816 (apart from anything else, Shelley was married to Harriet Westbrook until her death in December 1816). Interestingly Mary didn't marry until several months after the trip to Italy when she first came up with the Frankenstein idea and started the story.

The articles in Weird Wessex are divided into somewhat arbitrary sections like 'Weird History' and 'Weird Landscape', but there are lots of fun, interesting topics. I've always found the most interesting aspect of books like this are not the big ticket destinations like Stonehenge or Wells Cathedral, both of which appear, but the little oddities like the Langton Cross which apparently, according to legend, travels a mile each New Years Eve. These are destinations that you have to go out of your way to find, or perhaps even need to uncover from the undergrowth, and are all the more fun for it. Luckily, this well-illustrated little book contains a true plethora of these delightful oddities.

Weird Wessex is available on and

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