This book tells the story of the Pictish warrior Calach and his struggles, military as well as personal, with the Roman Empire. As we know next to not...moreThis book tells the story of the Pictish warrior Calach and his struggles, military as well as personal, with the Roman Empire. As we know next to nothing about the people we call the Picts, this has to be placed somewhere in the realm between fantasy and an educated guess. However, it's a good and plausible story, as well as an enjoyable read, albeit at just under 200 pages a rather quick one.(less)
This is the 5th and final book in the Parasol Protectorate series - loose ends are being tied up, questions answered and storylines concluded. As a re...moreThis is the 5th and final book in the Parasol Protectorate series - loose ends are being tied up, questions answered and storylines concluded. As a result, this is probably the busiest book of the series, a lot of different things are going on in different places and, in my opinion, it affected the flow of the story somewhat. However, it was still an enjoyable read overall, with lots of intriguing events, beautifully imagined contraptions (loved the Drifters with their balloons!) and the usual attendant fun, frivolity and sheer nonsense that you'd expect from this series. I like Carriger's unfailing sense for the absurd and I will miss the engaging characters she's created.(less)
The book tells the story of 4 very different people whose lives are being torn apart by the war. We meet Riley in 1907 as a bright young boy from a wo...moreThe book tells the story of 4 very different people whose lives are being torn apart by the war. We meet Riley in 1907 as a bright young boy from a working class family who, after a mishap at the park, is being mentored by the parents of Nadine, wo is the same age as Riley. However, as he grows up Riley finds that his improved education and manners don't equal social acceptance when Nadine's parents deem his attachment to their daughter unsuitable. By now it's 1914 and in a spontaneous romantic gesture of disappointment and disillusionment Riley joins the army and is soon on his way to France. His CO is Peter Locke, an officer who signed up out of patriotic duty and leaves behind a beautiful, loving and very naive wife, Julia. None of them has any idea what they are in for.
It took me a moment to get used to Young's rather broad brushstrokes, but she is actually very good at delivering a clear picture of the conditions, the surroundings, the setting. The occasional stream of conciousness narrative gets you right into the protagonists' heads and the reader gets a very immediate impression of their thoughts and feelings, not all of them rational. It is strange then that the actual relationships between the characters seem so underdeveloped at times; for example we never really hear when or why Nadine and Riley fell in love, we are just told that this is so. This was a real drawback for me and I'd call it more 3.5 stars than 4 because of it.
The real strength of the book is the part about Sidcup and Harold Gillies, which is clearly where the author's interst and inspiration for the story lies. I've never heard of Major Gillies or the reconstructive surgery methods he developed to help disfigured returned soldiers and was astonished to read about the operations, or should I say miracles, he performed. It is this aspect that made it a very worthwhile read for me, one I hadn't come across in other books on the period. (less)