The Bookworm Critique
By Mark Glendenning, Australia
Atlas F1 Columnist
Hey, another Senna book. Just what the world needs, right?
2004 marks the tenth anniversary of a truly awful weekend at Imola, so the timing of this volume is not especially surprising. If anything, it is hard not to wonder whether this might mark the beginning of a flood of similar publications over the coming months. Senna's story has been told and re-told so many times that today's generation of fans that never actually saw the Brazilian drive are as clued up about his life and career as those who were there back in the day.
So other than the opportunity to make a few bucks, what is the point of this book? It's a good question, and having sat down to read it, I still can't answer it. The blurb on the back of the dust jacket claims that 'for the first time, a book covers the entire fascinating story of this exceptional champion', but surely even the publicists can't really believe that. Vassal and Menard recount the Senna tale from his beginnings in Brazil to the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, but they do no more than trawl through waters that have already been fished to the point of exhaustion.
And not even that is done particularly well a colleague who was involved in European karting at the same time as Ayrton highlighted a number of errors and inaccuracies in both the text and photo captions throughout the chapter describing that particular period of Senna's life. This shortcoming is made all the more unfortunate by the fact that Senna's karting material perhaps offered the authors their best opportunity to come up with something worth reading. Menard's sketches of Senna's Grand Prix machinery are quite well done, and are a good accompaniment to the technical specifications that are provided for each car, but they don't come close to making this book a worthwhile purchase. Or at least, not unless you find it heavily discounted...
Similarly, there are a few photographs that are worth a look, most of which date from Senna's pre-Formula One years. But again, as intriguing as some of them are, they still don't translate into something worth hauling the wallet out for.
Throw some occasionally awkward translation from French to English, and the picture is complete. Unless you are one of those Senna fanatics that has to have everything featuring his soulful gaze, there is simply nothing about 'Above and Beyond' to inspire this reviewer to suggest that it deserves a spot on your bookshelf - and nothing to suggest that it has been done an injustice in receiving the shortest Bookworm's Critique ever! If you see it in a shop, pick it up and have a flick through. And then put it back and spend your money elsewhere.