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Really digs into the history of theater in the US and Britain without being dry. I'm seriously impressed.
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Ostensibly about the 1849 riots in New York between fans of two star actors, one American and one British, the book is actually much broader in scope. In addition to discussing the nature of the theater at that time in both countries and the popularity of Shakespeare with the masses (especially in America, and particularly in the pioneer west), the author goes into great detail about social conditions in both countries, politics, and anti-American travel literature by British writers. Cliff has a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the U.S. than most British writers and can see his own country in perspective as well.
The book felt padded to me. I don't know whether Cliff realized only after he began writing that the rivalry between Forrest and Macready and the resulting riot wouldn't fill a book, or whether he started out with a sweeping vision, but much of the book has little to do with the incident of the title. Some of it is interesting, but I felt impatient to get back to the main story.