It’s Book Club time once again! For this slate, we dip back into some documented history wrapped inside some attractive packaging, which is also known as a “coffee table book” to you heathens. For this American racing fan, the Sunday before Memorial Day demands a very special routine. This blessed day requires myself getting up extra early (by my standards), mixing up a Bloody Mary, and beginning my binge watch of the greatest day of the year in motor racing with the Monaco Grand Prix. Let’s take this opportunity to learn a little more about a world famous landmark before my vision starts to get a little too hazy, or I run out of those big celery sticks.
The Life: Monaco Grand Prix by Stuart Codling is an intimate history of one of the world’s most famous racing venues, and the picturesque landscape that surrounds it. Formula 1 racing is considered the top of the motor racing world, and the Monaco Grand Prix is it’s crown jewel. Raced on a tight little street circuit on the breathtaking waterfront of Monte Carlo, spectated by the wealthy and beautiful, the Grand Prix is luxury and wealth personified. Before all the opulence however, first: a bit of history. The Life starts with an explanation of how the principality of Monaco came to be, and more importantly how its role developed in the world of racing. Monaco was ahead of its time in many ways, and embracing the early motor car was the most significant. In a world and time before fuel consumption and horse power were given much thought, the people of Monaco were seeing the automotive future take shape right before their very eyes. Their Grand Prix wasn’t the first, but its charm and prestige have made the event a phenomenon for nearly one hundred years.
The book’s formatting makes for an overall pleasant reading experience. As with any book for the living room library, the details are accompanied by remarkably detailed photographs from the time period. There are countless stories from decades past of the cars, drivers, and characters worthy of posterity, and the author takes a “time line” approach in their curation. From the pioneering days, the rise of the German Reich, rebuilding after WWII, and through to the modern age, The Life gives rigorous detail to each era. The pioneers, through the beefy twelve plus cylindered monstrosities, to the works of modern art that race cars are today, it was fascinating to see the race facility shape and mold with the times as well. Unfortunately, for being the world’s center of fun for the exceedingly wealthy, the book doesn’t contain much of the glamour of the community or the people who pass through it. While I appreciate the in-depth knowledge of the internal combustion engine powered beasts that tore through the picturesque streets of Monte Carlo, there’s a still a little more mystique that’s yearning to be examined. Certainly, the book doesn’t ignore the legendary nightlife, or that celebrities and racing magnates make for interesting bedfellows, but the human elements of the track and principality’s history could’ve been fleshed out in greater detail. Perhaps a less dignified author could explore the closed door shenanigans of the James Hunt(s) and Ayrton Senna(s) of the world, but I can appreciate keeping the contents of this book high brow and directly on topic.
Verdict: The Life: Monaco Grand Prix by Stuart Codling delivers on its promise to present the reader with a thorough re-telling of the landmark race community’s history. While not heavy on the glitz and glamour of the beautiful backdrop, the author’s intimate research for the motorized accomplishments paints a wonderful picture of mechanical automotive artistry. If you’re a gear head with a passion for European motor history, this book is a must-have for your personal library.
Special thanks to Quarto Publishing Group for an advance copy of The Life: Monaco Grand Prix provided to TehBen.com for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Author’s Twitter: @CoddersF1