Book Review – Brunel: The Man Who Built the World

Bader Hirzalla, first year Undergraduate Student, gives a review of Steven Brindle take on Brunel.
Bader Hirzalla, first year Undergraduate Student, gives a review of Steven Brindle take on Brunel.

Brunel: The Man Who Built the World, by Steven Brindle, is a short yet comprehensive insight into both the personal and business life that Brunel led. If anything, this book has really emphasised the importance and sheer brilliance of the work that Brunel has gifted to Britain. I think, it is safe to say, that after reading this book any reader would agree in stating that Brunel is definitely Britain’s greatest engineer. The illustrations and photographs within different segments of the book really add to the scale and feat of Brunel’s work. The visual aids presented within are extraordinary, allowing the reader to visually synchronise what is being said to images of construction around Britain.


The introduction to the book, written by Dan Cruikshank, gives a brief overview as to how Brunel’s unique and fascinating, world-renowned architecture came to be. With influences stemming from all around the world, Brunel’s neo-gothic bridges and train stations, with hints of Italian inspiration, are all beautifully explained.


Included in the book are some of Brunel’s personal and family letters, which show a side of the architect that is not commonly seen or known about. Overall the book is divided into eight small sections, all dealing with different elements within Brunel’s life. These include working with his dad, his great contributions to major projects, as well as his connections to Bristol and other parts of his business life. The eloquence of how the book is written is such that it doesn’t completely lose the reader in highly technical engineering terms that would frustrate rather than intrigue.


Now even though the book has been split up succinctly, it does have a downfall – the confusing manner in which this novel is structured. The chronology of the book is slightly baffling; however, there is a small section at the end, which ties everything in neatly to make up for this. The only other critique I would have about the book is that it lacks length. There is just simply too much to say and tell about the feats of Brunel. It just can’t be squeezed into just under 200 pages.


Overall the book is a very easy and enjoyable read, with beautiful illustrations, and a neat summary of Brunel’s quite extraordinary life of how he became to be known as the greatest engineer that Britain has ever had.

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