The book made for a pacy read - partly because of Kendall's writing, partly because of Roget's surprisingly eventful life.
In his twenties, for example, Roget was staying in French-occupied Geneva when war broke out between France and England; Napoleon ordered the imprisonment of British nationals, turning Roget into a détenu. Only by first declaring himself a citizen of Geneva and then... oh, but I won't spoil it for you.
Instead, what I'd like to blog about is the experience of being an Englishman reading the biography of a famous Englishman written by a writer who is (I assume) an American writing primarily for an American readership. Phew!
For example, Kendall has to explain some things that the average Brit would know, such as the meaning of 'Mancunians':
Perhaps that’s why so many Mancunians (the Latin-derived term for Manchester citizens) gravitated towards the teachings of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism
Of course, I can't criticise him for this. I did, however (and perhaps unaccountably) find some of his Americanisms jarring - especially this use of 'write':
From Cornwall, she wrote Mrs. Reid, “We three get on capitally together. I am sure Kate is already better and enjoying all enthusiastically."
Kendall also uses the least formal style I've ever come across in a biography. For example:
On Saturday, July 16, 1803, Roget learned that the French weren’t kidding. After several weeks of issuing threats, they had finally stepped up their aggression toward all foreign nationals.
Roget was also overwhelmed with anger. He couldn’t believe that a Frenchman was forcing him out of the city where his father had been born. A Frenchman was kicking him out of Switzerland!
I don't know if this is how American biographers usually write, but I found it surprising. To be fair, Kendall does admit in his acknowledgements:
This book is not meant to be a scholarly biography. Though all the scenes are based on actual events, in several instances, where primary source material was lacking, I offered my best approximation of specific details.
So The Man Who Made Lists is, if you like, the TV re-enactment of the biography world: Crimewatch with added classification.
I might even send it on to Apus to see what he makes of it.