Book Review: The Odysseum, Bramwell & Tinsley


Wow! What a fun little book. I’ve only read the first two chapters so far – chapter one on the mental peregrinations of Albert Speer and Xavier de Maistre, and chapter two on the treasure hunt created by Kit Williams’ Masquerade – but I’m already loving it.

A small near square hardback running to a little over 200 pages, with a nicely designed cover, featuring numerous black and white images as illustrations, there are a few editorial gaffes (typos, poor grammar), and some of the pics aren’t very clear or good quality. So it’s not perfect.

Albert Speer
Albert Speer gardening at Spandau.

But it’s the content which makes this so good. Written in an easy going but erudite and informative style, it is, like its subject, a journey around the crazy worlds of human endeavour and imagination. From the literal imaginings of Speer, travelling the world from his Spandau confinement, to the kind of creative thinking behind a project like artist Kit Williams’ golden hare treasure hunt.

Travelling in style.

Happily for me, this book is filled with those kinds of personal resonances that can be very deeply satisfying. Numerous subjects or themes are already of interest to me; as a reader of much WWII and Napoleonic history, the stuff on Speer immediately grabs me, and I still have Hitler’s jaw and Napoleon’s willy to look forward to!

I’d already encountered Xavier de Maistre in numerous other places, such as Alain de Botton’s Art of Travel. Kit Williams Masquerade is even more personal, inasmuch as we had the book when it came out, and vainly tried to solve its many riddles. Hearing how it drove some folks potty, including unforeseen fallout for its creator, is fascinating. And there’s the added bonus of a Bamber Gascoine connection (to be further explored when time allows!).

We had this book, when I were a nipper.

I also like how the authors refer their readers, or ‘seekers’, to source material and beyond. So at the end of each chapter books and other material (TV, radio, internet) are referenced, so one can follow up any interests. Sadly some of these leads, e.g. to the Radio 4 afternoon play on Speer’s imaginary round the world walk, at the time of writing, lead nowhere.

I’ll probably return to this review to develop and augment it, as I read more of the book. Having discovered it, I now want to read their other books, The Odditorium, and The Mysterium. In the meantime, however, this is an absolute gem, and I really can’t recommend it highly enough.

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