Gerald Donaldon’s authoritative 1989 book on Gilles Villeneuve – The Life of the Legendary Racing Driver – set a high standard for F1 driver biographies.
But few drivers inspire the kind of affection Villeneuve does. Surely one of the most beloved Formula One drivers of all time, it therefore comes as no surprise to find new books on Villeneuve periodically appear.
This recent offering from Hungarian author Karoly Mehes stands out because of the breadth of interview subjects he obtained. Seven world champions, many of Villeneuve’s other rivals, his mechanics and journalists he was close to all feature.
Bernie Ecclestone even makes an appearance with an anecdote about trying to stop Villeneuve from bringing his caravan into the paddock and a complaint about how today’s drivers are lacking in character. Two points which I can’t help help but feel are not unrelated.
But while there’s a rich vein of source material at the core of the book, its presentation leaves something to be desired. Each of the 44 brief chapters features a handful of questions and answers with each subject. Inevitably the same questions pop up more than once, and it quickly starts to feel very repetitive.
So what we have here is a half-done job: a series of brief if often interesting Q-and-As with nothing to bind them together into a narrative. The sometimes patchy English translation is another unwelcome obstacle to the reader.
I’m sure Villeneuve fans with an appetite for something new about this heroic driver will appreciate the effort which has gone into the book and its treasure trove of anecdotes. But while it’s clear a lot of passion has gone into it, a bit more discipline was needed to turn it into a must-read book.
F1 Fanatic rating
Buy Gilles Villeneuve: His Untold Life from Berthierville to Zolder
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Gilles Villeneuve: His Untold Life from Berthierville to Zolder
Author: Karoly Mehes
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9 comments on “Gilles Villeneuve: His Untold Life reviewed”
15th February 2015, 12:02
@keithcollantine I think that you need a broader scale, like perhaps out of 10 instead of 5. Because it just doesn’t seem very telling.
ColdFly F1 (@)
15th February 2015, 20:18
@mashiat2, I think the review itself is telling enough.
I missed the score in this/earlier reviews. Even after your comment it took me some time to find it.
15th February 2015, 15:20
Donaldsons book sets the bar too high for others Keith, even after all these years its still THE definitive book on Villeneuve that I wonder If anyone could better it. That being said, its fantasic that over 30 years after his death we still have people wanting to write & read about him, even if I wont be buying.
ferrox glideh (@ferrox-glideh)
15th February 2015, 18:10
Donaldson’s book just might be my favorite F1 book of all time. I wonder when Keith Collantine will write a book of his own? :)
15th February 2015, 23:55
Proud to say I have spoken with Mr. Donaldson on a couple of occasions and have a few of his books autographed including his one on Gilles.
16th February 2015, 7:40
His bio of James Hunt is really good too, as is his bio of Fangio. Excellent writer.
16th February 2015, 13:01
@paulguitar Agreed. Have both those signed by him too.
17th February 2015, 13:01
As my avatar might suggest, I think I’ll be buying this book. It may be put together disjointedly, but any new anecdotes regarding Gilles are worth having IMHO.
ferrox glideh (@ferrox-glideh)
17th February 2015, 22:34
Sir, I like your avatar!
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