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Betty Haig – A Life behind the Wheel

by Roger Farmer

2019 review by Guy Loveridge

I had been very much looking forward to reading this biography. It had all the elements that I enjoy – a career in racing, rallying and hill climbing that spanned the decade before and the two decades after the Second World War and a title that had been written with the full assistance of Betty’s family, in this case her nephew. My heart sank reading the author biography, an ex-RAF man with no previous writing experience. Sadly this shows. The private nature of the publishing and design is at many times painful. The author chooses to cut between his version of “what happened” and Betty’s surviving diaries and notes. The issue is that there is not a clear enough distinction made between the two voices. A greater variance in typeface would solve this but, also, the format and page layout, as well as the treatment of photographs – some being fully captioned, others having nothing – is annoyingly inconsistent.

I have to say it is a good addition to the library of a motor-sporting history anorak, but please do not buy it if you are a pedant – it will annoy you.  The biggest problem is that the author is not a “car person” – because of this he clearly has no clue who Fritz Huschke von Hanstein was, and why owning a car that he competed in would be BIG news.  Major facts and significant events, such as being the first all-female works Ferrari Crew at Le Mans, winning the “Coupe des Dames” and securing a second-in-class 15th place is dashed off as being of apparent equal significance to a Club Hill Climb at Prescott.

There is also an annoying inconsistency in the apparently exhaustive appendices.  If you are going to set out to list “all” of something and go into apparently comprehensive detail then please be consistent therein. It is easy to spot mistakes, and places where cars are transposed from one year to another, apparently to fit the narrative “gap” later, rather than to match the historical continuity of facts.

Thus, to sum up, I really wanted to love this book.  The subject ticked all of my boxes, but the book just does not cut the mustard as either history or, sadly, biography.

Publisher: direct from agricola1@btinternet.com

Price: £45 + postage (available on Amazon)

Description: Hardback, 265 pages, illustrations in black and white and colour.

ISBN: 978-1-7892-6019-9

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