All credit to Rosie Alison for getting her first book published, by whatever means. Most of us dream of being a 'writer' and never get past a first pa...moreAll credit to Rosie Alison for getting her first book published, by whatever means. Most of us dream of being a 'writer' and never get past a first page of idle jottings. It requires grit and determination to go all the way.
However, just a few pages into this book I was reminded of the old adage, 'Everyone has a book in them and that is where it is best left'. Words alone can't describe quite how bad this book is. I don't want you to put yourself through reading it, so words will have to do.
I've read a review where someone threw the book over the side of a cross-channel ferry rather than finish it. Another where they binned it as it wasn't worth sending to the charity shop. I know exactly how they felt. I plodded around a fifth of the way through it before throwing in the towel, and that fifth was a real struggle.
Unfortunately, Rosie Alison just can't write. If she was prepared to spend a little time doing a creative writing course (perhaps A174 with the Open University?), or even read a primer on the subject, she might realise that 'less is more'. Overuse and, or, strange use of adjectives and adverbs just doesn't cut it, eg 'Nazi stukas', 'lustrous moustache', 'gummy teeth' or 'eerie warning'. And 'point of view' changes grate; they're continuous and inappropriate. There is even the odd error in tense.
Metaphors are laughable: 'It was as if her heart had been suddenely tuned into a strange new wireless station for other people's sorrows.'
Characterisation of an eight year old child is totally inappropriate. We have Anna, at eight, hearing the wheels of a man's wheelchair squeak and feeling sorry for him and for his wife: 'She worried that Mrs Ashton might not be happy being married to a cripple - they couldn't go dancing together, and she could imagine Mrs Ashton dancing. That must make him sad, too, she thought. How could such a beautiful woman be married to a man who couldn't walk?' It just isn't credible. Or the following: 'Did the Ashtons have any children of their own, she wondered? She hoped so. He must be a kind father.'
But it's the standard of written English that is truly unforgiveable. Or maybe it is. It's difficult to tell someone their written English isn't up to scratch, particularly a graduate in English Literature from Oxford. But surely her friends could have helped out a little? If you haven't read the book you may be wondering just how bad it is. It's very bad, page after page. Just two examples will make the point:
'He could not contain his own joy...' 'Norton found a woman streaming with blood in a crater, and he pulled her out, while his wife ran to help an old man trapped by a wall.'
I really recommed giving this a miss. Life's too short. (less)
Great fun! Not exactly rigorous as regards scientific accuracy, but as a romp through, well, a history of nearly everything, this book will take some...moreGreat fun! Not exactly rigorous as regards scientific accuracy, but as a romp through, well, a history of nearly everything, this book will take some beating. Hugely entertaining.(less)
It's remarkably short and the power of the narrative is quite extraordinary.
Disruptions to showings of the film (1930) of the book wer...moreRead this book.
It's remarkably short and the power of the narrative is quite extraordinary.
Disruptions to showings of the film (1930) of the book were organised in Berlin by Goebbels. Remarque's sister Elfriede, who stayed in Germany unlike Remarque, was executed by the Nazis in 1943, on a trumped up charge. The court president stated: 'Your brother has unfortunately escaped us - you, however, will not escape us'. Anti-war sentiment was not what was required to help develop the Thousand Year Reich.
The story is fictional but, nonetheless, about real people, in a real war. It's told in the first person and you are privy to all the thoughts, observations and actions, both in the trenches, behind the lines and at home, that characterise the lot of the common soldier.
It deals with technical aspects of the Caledonian Orogeny and associated events and so is not for the casual reader, w...moreThis book is absolutely superb!
It deals with technical aspects of the Caledonian Orogeny and associated events and so is not for the casual reader, with principal chapter titles as follows:
Britain's oldest rocks: remnants of Archean crust Orogenies in the Proterozoic Continental break-up and the opening of the Iapetus Ocean Arc-continent collision: the Grampian phase of the Caledonian Orogeny Exhumation of the Grampian mountains Sedimentation and tectonics at a mid-Ordovician to Silurian active margin Multiple plate collisions and the end of the Iapetus Ocean Sedimentation at the end of the Caledonian Orogeny
It was prepared for an Open University course but stands alone as an excellent guide to the subject. It has been very carefully written with straightforward, comprehensive descriptions and explanations, and is extremely well illustrated. Unlike in some texts, the joint authors not only clearly know their subject inside out, but can communicate complex events and chronologies in a way that doesn't confuse or obfuscate. All key sections are clearly summarised. And to top it all, the book has clearly been painstakingly proof read with intelligence; so often in geological texts the estimated dates for events change seemingly at random! Here, if they say that it's estimated that the Iapetus rifted open between 600 and 590 Ma ago, then that's what it'll say elsewhere in the book.
I am a great fan of Richard Dawkins but dear, oh dear, he does go on sometimes! The problem is not with what he has to say, but his belief that people...moreI am a great fan of Richard Dawkins but dear, oh dear, he does go on sometimes! The problem is not with what he has to say, but his belief that people can't understand something explained once. So you can have a simple concept explained every which way and you find yourself wanting to scream 'Get on with it!'. To find the same thing repeated again, and again, in separate parts of the book gets very tedious. (Not as tedious as the repetition in The God Delusion, but that was in a class of its own!) If he needs to refer back to a concept or explanation, he doesn't just refer back to it, he goes through the whole damn thing again!
I started to read the book when it was first published and never finished. I did this time, but know why I didn't the first. I got to around where I finished last time and found I was saying under my breath: 'Please, please, don't say again "At the risk of repeating myself..."; you are, and please, please stop. I'm a busy man.' Speed reading saved the day.
He is also a little careless in how he demolishes people who he thinks hold eroneous opinions; there were several non-sequiturs in his arguments, even though his conclusions were correct. It seems he gets a little wound-up and doesn't edit out his worst excesses at the proof reading stage!
The book is now very dated. It is past its sell-by date and it's worth putting your time into something else on the subject of Evolution; I can recommend the Selfish Gene; although published earlier than The Blind Watchmaker, it is still as relevant as when it was written.(less)
The fourth book in the Wallander series, and I've read the first four sequentially. This is probably the best so far but that isn't really saying a lo...moreThe fourth book in the Wallander series, and I've read the first four sequentially. This is probably the best so far but that isn't really saying a lot. As with the others, it's not so much the plot that's preposterous, but the way in which the characters interact. At times these interactions are handled skillfully, at others as if Mankell was not doing very well on his creative writing course: 'Must try harder'. If the overall plot isn't completely preposterous, just like the previous novels, the skilled killers behave like amateurs and do some quite extraordinary things... we never quite do get to the bottom of why they tried to kill a secretary by planting a landmine in her lawn, rather than just shooting her!
Again, as with the others, the translations are poor.
If you're happy with very short, tabloid style, sentences that leave you feeling as if you're reading a primary school text, or are a fan of writing along the lines of Jeffery Archer and are prepared to suspend disbelief for a while, then you might well enjoy Mankell's writing.
It has to be said, there is something strangely compelling about the life of the misfit Wallander even if he is full of contradictions (and I mean within the writing, not within himself!) And once started, the books do gain a momentum that keeps you reading.
However, I don't think I'll be reading another in the series anytime soon. I started as I loved the series screened on BBC4. Not unsurprisingly, Wallander in the books is absolutely nothing like his wonderful Swedish screen incarnation. A pity.
(The book character is very loosely along the lines of the Kurt Wallander in the awful Kenneth Branagh screen adaptations, complete with ageing father painting repetitive landscapes; but absolutely NOTHING like the well balanced Kurt Wallander in the shape of Krister Henriksson in the Swedish series shown on BBC4.) (less)
A second reading, some thirty years from the first and as brilliant as it was the first time; plus two more chapters and a host of endnotes to each ch...moreA second reading, some thirty years from the first and as brilliant as it was the first time; plus two more chapters and a host of endnotes to each chapter. As relevant now as then. Quite exceptional and should be read by everyone with an interest in evolution.(less)
Having read the first two books in the Inspector Wallander series, this book came as a disappointment. Granted, Henning Mankell's writing is not going...moreHaving read the first two books in the Inspector Wallander series, this book came as a disappointment. Granted, Henning Mankell's writing is not going to set the world alight: it's easy-reading junk fiction with very short sentences with a literary style along the lines of Jeffery Archer. Mankell overstretched his abilities in this story piling unlikely events onto unlikely events. The whole thing ended up being quite preposterous and when he couldn't work a way of getting Wallander, or whoever, out of a particular situation, we had yet another absurdity to add to a growing list. Professional killers etc were all described as expert; expert until it would be inconvenient, eg Wallander hides under a bed and they don't look under it 'as the bed was made'.
I accept that everyone can have different views on fiction, so I'm sure many people won't agree with the above.
However, I'm sure most people will agree with my next criticism that runs to the whole series so far: appalling translation. Or maybe that is a trifle unfair; appalling copy-editing, if it happened at all. All three books I have read so far have smacked of the Swedish being given to the translator, he does his job expecting it to be copy-edited, and the translation is just printed as it stands. No translator can realistically expect to copy-edit his own translation; he won't see the wood for the trees. It needs further input. Whatever did happen, the cost cutting in these Vintage translations is pretty unforgiveable and really grates. The books are crammed full of literary and continuity howlers.
This book is a wonderful tale of the unconscious. It explores a world of unconscious dreaming that is beautifully gentle in the way it slowly reveals...moreThis book is a wonderful tale of the unconscious. It explores a world of unconscious dreaming that is beautifully gentle in the way it slowly reveals something of the character of the narrator, and something about all of us. The black and white woodcuts, by Nicholas Garland, perfectly illustrate this short story.
The edition I read was the paperback, with a separate dustcover. It was a delight to hold; there was something about the binding, the texture, the layout, that perfectly suited the story.
Probably unusually, I read this book without having read any of Jane Austen's books although I have Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Emma and Sense an...moreProbably unusually, I read this book without having read any of Jane Austen's books although I have Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Emma and Sense and Sensibility in my bookcase. Like most people, I have seen all the recent screen adaptations, thoroughly enjoyed them, and have been meaning to read the novels: one day.
It seemed an excellent idea to read a book on 'How Jane Austen Conquered the World' to get a handle on the literature before settling down with the actual novels. I wasn't disappointed.
The book is wide-ranging in its coverage, moving from what is known of Jane's life and family and her, and her family's, literary ambitions, her publishers, and on through time examining changing literary criticism, stage plays and current film productions. If anything, the book is too detailed for the casual interested reader - at times one feels overwhelmed with the seeming flood of information, as if Claire Harman is determined to pack in every last piece of research. And researched it is! The 'Select Bibliography' runs to 11 pages, some 180 entries, and the 'Notes' to 22 pages, the index to 18 pages. Accordingly, I would put it in the category of 'Must Read' for any undergraduate studying English Literature; I doubt anything of any substance has been omitted.
For the less studious, it is hard going at times. This is accentuated as there are just seven chapters to cover every aspect of the subject. Within each chapter, different threads are simply separated by double paragraphing and ***. It sometimes seems as if the component parts of each chapter have been a little cobbled together and, when there is an obvious lack of continuity, three stars are used to separate. You feel after each separation as if you are launching into something new without knowing where it's going. It would have helped enormously to have had some chapter subheadings.
It therefore falls slightly between two stools; solid chapters to appeal to the more casual 'reader' with detail making them rather indigestible; and the detail and rigour of research to appeal to the 'academic' but this being buried in lengths of almost unbroken prose.
But the book is worth criticising. It is a wonderful piece of research and writing and one marvels at the sheer endeavour needed to produce it! I can recommend it to anyone with an interest in Jane Austen; but be prepared to take your time. It is not a book to be rushed.
(This book was received for free through Gooreads First Reads programme).(less)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book but it does have some quite severe limitations. Firstly, although it is clearly pitched at the general reader, unless h...moreI thoroughly enjoyed this book but it does have some quite severe limitations. Firstly, although it is clearly pitched at the general reader, unless he has a background knowledge of Earth Sciences he would often be left scratching his head. In the first chapters, possibly up to about half way, the book explains basic geological and evolutionary concepts in simple terms and then, as the book progresses, it skips through more complicated areas with little or no explanation at all. Secondly, the book is very light on diagrams that would help explain things. For example, there is a basic geological time chart early in the book that only shows Eras and Periods, but different Eons, Epochs and Stages are frequently referred to later in the text. Similarly, the changes in the cyconodonts, synapsids, dicynodonts etc across the Permian/Triassic boundary, as well as changes in many other taxa, are discussed in detail, but there are no cladograms to help get a handle on the interrelationship between them. For any reader, that would have been helpful. Thirdly, the book does rather give the impression of having been started carefully and then rushed through in the last third, with rather a lot of repetition.
Benton is a prolific author. Perhaps the drawbacks to the book are a reflection of the fact that it's unlikely he has much time to spend going back over his text to polish and improve. He is too busy with his next project!
Overall, the book is a very easy and enjoyable read for the Earth scientist and I would heartily recommend it. For the more general reader I would recommend the first half for the introduction to the subject of extinction, mass extinction in particular, and for the fascinating history of the subject from the early nineteenth century to the present.(less)
The Franchise Affair is a wonderfully gentle romp through an England that, sadly, no longer exists. It is the England of quiet roads, courtesy, walkin...moreThe Franchise Affair is a wonderfully gentle romp through an England that, sadly, no longer exists. It is the England of quiet roads, courtesy, walking to the bus, and afternoon tea. It is the England which some of us remember, the England that post-war American tourists thought 'quaint'. It is the England before double yellow lines, McDonalds, the shopping mall, and rudeness.
The beauty of Tey's writing is that you can immerse yourself in this wonderful lost world, see what used to be, and soak up the atmosphere. The characters in the Franchise Affair are wonderfully drawn; you can see them with clarity and share in their worries and concerns.
I suspect that younger readers, unless they are students of historical culture, will be bewildered by the world painted within the pages of The Franchise Affair, as they would be by the world in the other Tey book I have read: Brat Farrar. However, in contrast to the latter, the Franchise Affair is not an 'exciting read'; it just bimbles along gently. I would recommend it, if for no other reason, to gain an insight into or remember how it 'once was' in England.
This book is ideally suited to be read in front of a log fire while eating scones. You won't be disappointed.
I only give it three stars as the ending is, in my opinion, weak; but don't let that put you off: the book is a delight.
I thoroughly enjoyed this little book and only give it three stars as, from the perspective of someone reading one hundred and sixty-seven years after...moreI thoroughly enjoyed this little book and only give it three stars as, from the perspective of someone reading one hundred and sixty-seven years after it was written, it is a little hard-going at times and not as 'tight' in style as one becomes used to with modern fiction. It is well worth trying Dickens and, if you can't face a lengthy introduction (I would recommend that wonderful book: A Tale of Two Cities), then try this tiny volume. It can be read comfortably in an evening and you can close it at the end knowing you have added one of the world's true classics to your bookshelf.