The themes of this book - corruption and the motivating power of revenge - aren't new to Nesbo books. However, since this is not a Harry Hole mystery,...moreThe themes of this book - corruption and the motivating power of revenge - aren't new to Nesbo books. However, since this is not a Harry Hole mystery, there's no need to have the murders be sufficiently gruesome to both appear to be the work of a deranged mind and also clear whatever bar for horror was set in a preceding novel - which may not be specifically something that Nesbo is doing, but certainly I've wondered as I've worked my way through the Harry Hole series.
I can't comment on how good a job Nesbo really does with the various plot twists (misdirections, red herrings, and so on) because I tend to read this sort of book specifically not to try and solve it myself but see where the plot goes. It was tightly constructed, and a good read, not least because it gives you some interesting perspectives on vengeance, redemption, and forgiveness. Perhaps in that last area - forgiveness - there are the most obvious echoes of Harry Hole in Simon Kefas and his relationship in Else, but it's not a similarity that seems lazy because the resolution is sufficiently different.(less)
A tremendously compelling book - both as a narrative of war story and as an example of political journalism. Orwell showed a clarity of thought and in...moreA tremendously compelling book - both as a narrative of war story and as an example of political journalism. Orwell showed a clarity of thought and insight about the rise of both fascist and Soviet interventionism that more than stands the test of time, and shoes that a set of clear eyes doesn't have to wait for events to have settled down in order to make sense of them.(less)
I'm trying not to gush, but this is a fantastic book. It sets the 1995 Rugby World Cup in context as a symbolic moment of reconciliation for South Afr...moreI'm trying not to gush, but this is a fantastic book. It sets the 1995 Rugby World Cup in context as a symbolic moment of reconciliation for South Africa, only a a year past the first truly open elections. I had expected that this would be a bit shallow and the narrative would be forced, but in fact it makes perfect sense and is described with equal weight by people who would otherwise have little reason to agree.
If it has any sustained flaw, it's the hagiographic tone about Nelson Mandela, but that's wholly understandable given what the man actually achieved - and Carlin doesn't brush over failures or sadnesses of Mandela.
When I watched Kathy Freeman winning the gold medal in the 400m in Sydney, the noise from the crowd made my hair stand on end. This book recreates that over 2-3 chapters, which is a hell of a bit of writing.
Recommended even if you're not prone to reading about sport or politics.(less)
My interest in this book was more biased towards the political elements of the story, especially her family's participation in the leftist opposition...moreMy interest in this book was more biased towards the political elements of the story, especially her family's participation in the leftist opposition to the Shah in the 1970s, and the pathetic response she received from "anarchists" in Austria who were at best a pack of privileged dilettantes beset by adolescent anomie.
The cultural conflicts I had seen take a different form in the Persian community in Los Angeles - not that I was a part of it, but a good friend from college is, and it's a large enough community that the stories are there if you're interested to listen.
The drawing style was, I thought, tremendously effective. It communicated a great deal without being overwrought, the reader's attention remains fixed on the narrative. In fact, the only downside was that the speed with which it allowed to tear through the book. I should probably take another turn through to see what I missed because I was so busy rushing to the next step of the story. (less)
Having come to this well after the rise of Anthony Bourdain's media career, it was entertaining to read the comments he made about people becoming fix...moreHaving come to this well after the rise of Anthony Bourdain's media career, it was entertaining to read the comments he made about people becoming fixtures on the Food Channel.
People focused at the time on a very short section about iffy practices in the management of food (avoid the eggs benedict, etc.) but that's a small part of the book.
Bourdain paints a picture, and it is honest as I suspect that he can be - there's an element of persona, but openness about the persona, and where it can distort what really happened.
I was predisposed to like this book because I find Bourdain to have an interesting outlook on life, and I wasn't disappointed. If you prefer Rachel Ray, then this book might not be for you - unless you actively dislike Bourdain as well and are looking for something to confirm all of your worst suspicions. (less)
I'm not entirely sure how to encapsulate this book. It's an interesting mix of not-entirely-linear narrative, casual asides, the occasional whiff of 1...moreI'm not entirely sure how to encapsulate this book. It's an interesting mix of not-entirely-linear narrative, casual asides, the occasional whiff of 12-step thinking, and a message that's hard to argue with: help others.
The most barbed satire of the book is directed at the entertainment industry, which makes sense given that Ferguson was on the Drew Carey show and now has his own evening interview show. Yet in some regards it's less entertaining because there's genuine anger behind it, as opposed to the more sentimental satire of Scottish life from the earlier stages of the book. Having started out life in Scotland and spent 10 years in southern California, that could just be my prejudices speaking.
In any case, it's a book with some truly funny passages, an unvarnished view of human frailty, a note of hope for the capacity of humans to look beyond themselves, and some truly entertaining asides. (less)
This is an interesting book - Foer is a genuine fan of the game, as demonstrated by the excellent blog that he had running on The New Republic during...moreThis is an interesting book - Foer is a genuine fan of the game, as demonstrated by the excellent blog that he had running on The New Republic during the 2006 World Cup.
There's a lot of interesting material in this book, overall, though I was surprised that he was surprised that "local colour" doesn't just survive and thrive in an era of increased globalization... this was something that was becoming obvious 15 years ago.
There were portions of the book where his treatment was superficial, but that's a risk anyone takes in writing such a broad survey.
My main complaint, and the reason that this book didn't get a 4 star review, was his treatment of the Rangers - Celtic rivalry in Glasgow and the sectarian prejudice that it reflects.
I'll preface this with the obligatory disclaimer that I don't in any way condone the pervasive anti-Catholicism that you find in the West of Scotland... but the chapter felt like it was written through the lens of someone who was looking at it from the standpoint of American civil rights and issues of race equality. That's a continuing sore point in the DC area, where Foer is from - not least because of the continued informal segregation of the city.
But it has its failings as a way of making sense of Glasgow. There are long-standing ethnic, nationalist, and economic components to the problem, and they are not all of the Protestants' making. But since they are 1) the majority and 2) provide Rangers with some truly awful fans, Foer I think takes an easy swing because he looks at them and sees Jim Crow.
If it isn't obvious already, my family is from Glasgow, so it's hard for me not to react strongly to Foer's chapter. It was a reaction exacerbated by the fact that he managed to muster more criticism and anger directed at Rangers supporters (many of whom deserve it) than he managed when interviewing Serbian soccer thugs who had been involved in ethnic cleansing and mass murder. Priorities?(less)
[I'm going to cheat and just paste in a review I wrote elsewhere...:]
The key to getting the most out of this book is to understand that it further dev...more[I'm going to cheat and just paste in a review I wrote elsewhere...:]
The key to getting the most out of this book is to understand that it further develops the themes identified in the first book. Kershaw is by training an institutionalist, which as an academic approach focuses on the workings of organizations (political parties, government bureaucracies) rather than the great man approach to history. Yet, Kershaw acknowledges, one cannot understand the Third Reich absent Hitler. The point of the book, then, is understanding how the use and abuse of institutions accompanied the rise of the Nazis and the utter defeat of Germany in 1945.
The primary themes developed in the first book were that the rise of the Nazis was based on their growing appeal in the collapse of the Weimar Republic, based within broader Volkische and elite attitudes that were anti-democratic. Once Hitler became Reichs Chancellor, he was able to use the Reichstag and the governments of the Lander to consolidate social control. Kershaw makes a compelling case that consistently in both domestic and diplomatic issues, manufactured crises presented "unavoidable" choices, and that once organizations were under control, they were essentially abandoned to their own devices under the control of party loyalists that wanted to "work towards the Fuhrer."
With that basis, the second book details how ongoing crises and the inability of Hitler and party leadership to set a centrally controlled agenda, but rather depend on ad hoc solutions from multiple actors with overlapping responsibilities and ambitions, meant that all behavior was planned only to the point where it failed. At that point, all reactions became ad hoc. So, this leads Kershaw to identify the existence of genocidal anti-Semitism from the early days in Munich and the institutionalization of anti-Semitism in the first book, and then to demonstrate that the death camps of the Final Solution were an evolution based on the failure of relocation plans to remove Jews from Germany and crises of Jewish deportees arriving in Poland faster than they could be accommodated or conventionally massacred. Similarly, military collapses on the eastern front were attributable by leadership through instinct and reaction to crises -- precisely the wrong way to deal with a defensive war.
In essence, the book is an explanation of the following: how Hitler, having achieved control of the German state, managed to use it to completely destroy itself. Crisis based leadership and limited abilities to plan, combined with ideological filth that had nothing to do with observable conditions, meant that Germany's ascendance and decline were tied together by Hitler and his failings as a leader (rather than as a demagogue).
As a closing thought, I'd propose that reviewers who carp on about detail issues with the conduct of the war, make accusations of editorial bias, or who somehow read this volume as an apologia for Nazi-led genocide, fundamentally miss the point of the book. This book demonstrates that Hitler could achieve his goals when circumstances matched his skills, but that his inability to meaningfully direct organizations and deal with adverse outcomes were the basis of his (and by extension Germany's) downfall. Further, Hitler set in motion forces that translated his atrocious policies into action, in accordance with and inseparable from his conduct of war and repression. There is a normative overlay to the intellectual discussion, and there should be. (Refer to the introduction of "The Black Book of Communism" for an excellent and concise view of the role of normative sentiment in academic analysis.) One may not agree with the institutionalist perspective with which Kershaw tackled his analysis, but it is, within itself, masterful. (less)