The third Blandings novel. Classic farce with twisting plots and wonderful similes. Gally writing his memoirs; Empress of Blandings stolen; the Effici...moreThe third Blandings novel. Classic farce with twisting plots and wonderful similes. Gally writing his memoirs; Empress of Blandings stolen; the Efficient Baxter acting madly; Ronnie Fish and Sue Brown; Percy Pilbeam "investigating" various things; all the wrong people turning up in the wrong place at the wrong time, causing confusion. Great preface by PGW. (less)
The fourth Blandings novel, following straight on from Summer Lightening. Most of the same characters (plus Monty Bodkin and Lord Tilbury) still causi...moreThe fourth Blandings novel, following straight on from Summer Lightening. Most of the same characters (plus Monty Bodkin and Lord Tilbury) still causing confusion and heartache by turning up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Lots of people trying to steal Gally's memoirs, some to destroy them, others to publish them. (less)
A lovely collection of letters from Father Christmas ("aided" by JRRT) to Tolkien's children. The tone and content of the letters changes over time to...moreA lovely collection of letters from Father Christmas ("aided" by JRRT) to Tolkien's children. The tone and content of the letters changes over time to reflect the children growing up, but there is some continuity in the stories of what FC and his elves etc get up to. Lovely illustrations too. Best of all, they prompted FC to write similar letters to my own son, with some similarities to these stories, but with additional characters, some personal to him.(less)
The epic backstory and mythology of Middle Earth. The grandeur and beauty of the language is a little like the King James edition of the Bible - but w...moreThe epic backstory and mythology of Middle Earth. The grandeur and beauty of the language is a little like the King James edition of the Bible - but with much longer sentences. So, its beauty is counterbalanced by its opacity. I did sometimes have to recap to the start of a sentence or paragraph when I lost the train, and of course many of the characters are referred to by two (or more) names, but in the end, it's the majesty, rather than the detail that matters. If you're expecting something like The Hobbit (or even LotR), this will be a surprise. (less)
Derren Brown writing about mind control techniques. Irritating "jokes" in what is generally a serious book and thought provoking book, with practical...moreDerren Brown writing about mind control techniques. Irritating "jokes" in what is generally a serious book and thought provoking book, with practical things one can try oneself.
Truss' tongue-in-cheek style may not appeal to everyone and I don't agree with her about everything. In particular, "zero tolerance" makes punctuation...moreTruss' tongue-in-cheek style may not appeal to everyone and I don't agree with her about everything. In particular, "zero tolerance" makes punctuation an end in itself, rather than an aid to meaning, which seems back to front. It also makes no allowance for context and audience.
However, she gave punctuation and grammar a voice, and, however briefly, made people think about language, ambiguity and meaning, which is certainly good. Or it would be, if it didn't fuel the fire in the bellies of extreme prescriprivists.
A blue bear tells of his bizarre adventures (half of his 27 lives) in a fantasy world of extraordinary creatures. Re...moreIndescribable, mad book, but fun.
A blue bear tells of his bizarre adventures (half of his 27 lives) in a fantasy world of extraordinary creatures. Rescued and raised by mini pirates, taught to talk by Babbling Willows, navigator for a pterodactyl superhero etc etc. Interspersed with snippets from an encyclopaedia about the relevant creatures (shades of Hitchiker's), and plenty of pen and ink illustrations.
The overall effect is like a more adult version of Stewart and Ridell's Edge Chronicles, with touches of Python, fairy tales, Munchausen, Gulliver's Travels, Edward Lear and goodness knows what else.
Lovely use of language, quite apart from the extraordinary imagination behind it. "A dimension could, for instance, consist of congealed boredom or musical frigidity... there are said to be dimensions in which sorrow is the staple food of creatures that vegetate in little pools of grief", "Qwerty oozed majestically" and a clever description of "equitemporal tunnelling of dimensions" whereby time "can vanish while remaining omnipresent"; riding a horse is like moving in time to classical music but riding a camedary is more like a drunk drummer's rhythm.
Also a big book (over 700 large pages) but such fun it's only heavy in the sense of pound and ounces (or Kilos, if you prefer).(less)
I read this many years ago and gave it 4 stars. I've just reread it for my Goodreads bookgroup's February read and upgraded it to 5 stars.
A wonderful...moreI read this many years ago and gave it 4 stars. I've just reread it for my Goodreads bookgroup's February read and upgraded it to 5 stars.
A wonderful hybrid: a book that is eminently readable, but packed with fascinating and thought-provoking ideas and symbolism.
It's set in the near future in a dystopian totalitarian theocratic state where pollution has rendered many infertile, so there has been a backlash against permissiveness and women are subjugated to the point where they are not even allowed to read (even shop signs are just icons).
Offred tells the story of how she became a handmaid, assigned to one of the elite, purely for breeding purposes.
**** SLIGHT SPOLIERS BELOW ****
TRUER THAN YOU WANT TO THINK All the many and varied restrictions, practices, divisions and penalties imposed by the regime have really been applied somewhere in the world, albeit not all at the same time and place. One of the things that stops the book being gloomy is the resilience of the human spirit: there is a resistance movement among the lower classes and even amongst the elite, illicit things go on. The fear of being caught creates a good sense of tension.
FAITH and RITUAL Faith and ritual are important, both to the regime as a means of control and to individuals as a way of making life bearable.
SYMBOLISM The symbolism is rich, especially tulips and the colour red. The handmaids' sole purpose is procreation, their cycles are closely monitored, everything they wear is red and other important red items (such as a path) are pointed out. Whilst the shape of tulip flowers clearly echoes genitalia, they are also likened to a wound and teeth, and they and other flowers are described in different ways to indicated fertility or sterility. Serena Joy's knitting is a compulsive form of reproduction with sinister echoes of Dickens' Madame Defarge in "A Tale of Two Cities".
THEMES The big questions are around ownership of oneself and one's body.
The state is patriarchal, but an army of matriarchal "aunts" enforce rituals and build a hive mentality to support each other and hence the regime. Are the handmaids prostitutes (is Nick too)? They sell their bodies (though not for cash), but the aim is procreation, not anyone's pleasure (the wife is always present), and it is for the survival of them as individuals and of the human race.
Do the ends justify the means, and should the handmaids accept some responsibility for going along with it? And if "context is all", what is truth? I suspect you could read this several times and never come up with exactly the same answer.
Bennett at his best: witty, erudite and controversial.
This play is set in the 1980s in a boys’ grammar (selective state) school where a new head is de...moreBennett at his best: witty, erudite and controversial.
This play is set in the 1980s in a boys’ grammar (selective state) school where a new head is determined to get some of his brighter history pupils into prestigious Oxford and Cambridge colleges via additional lessons by three very different teachers: Hector, Irwin and also Mrs Lintott. Hector has been there for years; Irwin is young and brought in specially to help with Oxbridge exams and interviews; Mrs Lintott is a somewhat motherly figure who wants to remind them that women exist.
The boys are taught to think quickly and originally, to play the system and to find new ways to be themselves. It conveys the power of inspirational and unconventional education to break social barriers, whilst fully acknowledging the continuing power of them. The importance of social mobility is a hot topic in the current political climate; the role of grammar schools to help achieve it is much more controversial.
But are they being taught style over substance – or both? Hector is passionate about imparting knowledge to make them rounded individuals (regardless of targets or quantifiable results), while Irwin teaches techniques and finding a quirky angle to make them stand out. When Irwin asks the boys about the different teaching methods, he’s told “It’s just the knowledge... the pursuit of it for its own sake... not useful... like your [Irwin’s:] lessons”. Irwin tells them “truth is no more an issue in an examination than thirst at a wine-tasting or fashion at a striptease.” and “Flee the crowd... Be perverse... history nowadays is not a matter of conviction. It’s a performance. It’s entertainment.”
Parts are laugh-out-loud funny (Rudge defining history as “just one fucking thing after another”), whilst other parts are sad or troubling, most obviously the difficult question of whether slight inappropriate sexual behaviour by a teacher to a nearly adult pupil is as evil as current paedo paranoia would have us believe. The boys are resigned and slightly mocking of this eccentricity. When Hector has to stop giving them lifts on his bike, Dakin and Scripps joke, “No more genital massage as one speeds along leafy suburban roads... he dropped you at the corner, your honour still intact... Are we scarred for life, do you think? We must hope so. Perhaps it will turn me into Proust.” So what should the penalty be?
A wonderful quote that I failed to note down, but then picked up from Ana's excellent review of Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty Four" (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...): “The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.”
Note that the play, especially the ending, is slightly different from the film. (less)
Almost every line is a gem. Yes, it's all very self-consciously clever, and there are holes in the plot, but that's not the point. Try to pick your fa...moreAlmost every line is a gem. Yes, it's all very self-consciously clever, and there are holes in the plot, but that's not the point. Try to pick your favourite 5 quotes from it, or even two dozen - impossible as there are too many contenders. (less)
Tenniel is usually held up as the perfect illustrator for Alice, but, fond as I am of his drawings, I do love these rather quirkier Peake illustration...moreTenniel is usually held up as the perfect illustrator for Alice, but, fond as I am of his drawings, I do love these rather quirkier Peake illustrations.
Some day I'll have to get around to reviewing the actual words. ;)(less)
Whilst I'm not a big fan of this book per se (it's too dated, and the twee quasi homo subtext can grate), I have such happy memories of reading it wit...moreWhilst I'm not a big fan of this book per se (it's too dated, and the twee quasi homo subtext can grate), I have such happy memories of reading it with my son, when he was little. We would have endless picnics (imaginary and for real), role-playing various characters... but now he's a strapping 15 year old and those days are long gone. (less)
Not one of the best Wodehouse novels, but still an amusing romp.
This particular story is actually narrated by Bertie Wooster and the slightly modern s...moreNot one of the best Wodehouse novels, but still an amusing romp.
This particular story is actually narrated by Bertie Wooster and the slightly modern setting is disconcerting on the rare occasions it impinges. Anyway, Bertie gets pink spots on his chest and his doctor prescribes a restful spell in the country. Of course, life in a quiet English village is anything but quiet.
It has many of the aspects of classic Wodehouse: feuding neighbours, plots to purloin/borrow/kidnap/nobble, an absent-minded old buffer, animals (cats and horses), aunts, mistaken identity and romantic entanglements changing by the hour.
Although the trademark metaphors are not as numerous or elegant in some of his other works, they are still there: * "If she ever turned into a werewolf, it would be one of those jolly breezy werewolves whom it is a pleasure to know." * Of Jeeves, "he betrayed no emotion, continuing to look as if he'd been stuffed by a good taxidermist" * Jeeves' aunt stays with a friend whose address is "Balmoral, Mafeking Road" in an English village! * "I thought at first that my guardian angel, who had been noticeably lethargic up to this point, had taken a stiff shot of vitamin something and had become the ball of fire he ought to have been right along". * After falling, clothed, into a swimming pool, "It was with mixed emotions that I rose to the surface. Surprise was one of them."
Readers might also find it useful to know the Latin phrase rem acu tetegisti (and variants thereof) means "you have touched the matter with a needle; you have described it accurately".