Hello dear reader(s) and welcome back to another instalment of Nessa reads and reviews. I’m really excited about this review because this is the 50th book I’ve read this year for my Goodreads challenge! 🙂 It’s also the book that took me the longest to finish! I started it on May 1st and finished it on November 21st! That’s over 6 months! >_< The reasons it took me so long to finish wary from: I didn’t have time… I wasn’t in the mood… I got lost in the footnotes… However, that doesn’t imply that the book is dull or drudgery; on the contrary the subject is fascinating, well researched and marvellously written. Academic books simply take me longer to read because of the richness and complexity of the work. I’ll touch on that subject a bit later.
Professor Catherine Wendy Bracewell teaches Southeast European history at UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies. Doctor Bracewell’s most known work in Croatia is The Uskoks of Senj: Piracy, Banditry, and Holy War in the Sixteenth-century Adriatic. The book was first published in 1992 and was translated to Croatian in 1997. I bought the book in English because I wasn’t able to find the Croatian edition anywhere. Croatia is a small country and a small market, making academic books on any subject rather niche and expensive to translate and print. As a result the publishers put a small circulation of these books in print, and after distribution to various libraries a small amount of books reaches the bookstores. By the time you’re aware of them and actually have the money to purchase the book you want they are sold out. But in most cases you can get an English edition of the book you’re interested in, so yay for that!
In her innovative, well researched and captivating book The Uskoks of Senj professor Bracewell introduces the reader to the to the uskoks, their origin and their history. The book consists of 9 chapters in which, by using various sources, doctor Bracewell analyses and reconstructs the uskoks view of themselves, their motivation and the code of honour they followed. The relationship between uskoks and the citizens of Senj, along with the relationships between uskoks and the then ruling forces: the Habsburg Monarchy, Venice and the Ottoman Empire are meticulously explored. The Uskoks of Senj provides a wealth of information not only about Croatia and the Croatian Military Frontier in the early modern period, but about the groups of people who lived there, their relationship and interactions with their neighbours, allies and enemies.
The Uskoks of Senj are simultaneously a captivating and difficult read. The writing is well structured and succinct, the paragraphs easily flow into one another making the reading fluent. However, the amount of information that you find between 300 pages of the book is engrossing and it takes time for the reader to absorb and sift through all of it. Although I’ve heard that The Uskoks of Senj being recommended to the general readership, personally I’m on the fence about that. As I stated above the book is masterfully written and well structured, the subject matter is really quite fascinating and well researched, but at the same time it’s very specific and quite niche. And that might be difficult for some readers.
Nevertheless, I think I would recommend this book to the general readership, but with a few caveats. Do keep in mind that The Uskoks of Senj deal with a specific period of Croatian history and that academic writing, regardless of general reader friendliness, uses specific terminology. It would be beneficial if you already have some background knowledge about early modern history of Croatia, and you’ll pick up on the terminology as you go through the book. This doesn’t mean that the subject of the book will be totally unintelligible to you if you’re not familiar with the period, but the reading could prove to be challenging and troublesome. It is worth it though, just keep these things in mind. The Uskoks of Senj are not really a casual book you’ll start reading during your lunch break or something to keep your mind occupied as you wait at the doctor’s office. OK, if it is kudos for you! You’re awesome!
Now for Croatian readers who, of course, learned about the history of Croatia and the uskoks in primary and secondary school this book will provide a fascinating insight and a different point of view of the uskoks and their history. In my experience the way most (but not all) history professors teach history through primary and secondary school is dull and tedious; and people often complain to me (when they find out I’m a history teacher) that history was the worst subject in school because it was so boring. Just remember that the book uses a specific language and terminology, but nothing that can’t be overcome.
This wraps up today’s book review. Let me know in the comments below, or over on Twitter (@NarratriceNessa), are you plaining to read or have you already read The Uskoks of Senj? Are you familiar with the uskoks, or is this the first time you heard of them? Do you usually read history books? Are they challenging or easy peasy to read? Let’s chat! Before I sign off, the next review will either be Locke & Key comics, or Tanja Radman’s Republika Smrtnika, depending on what I finish first. I’m still planning my reading list for December and I’ll talk more about that once I finish it. Until next time dear reader(s) have a good one! 🙂