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The Brothers Karamazov
With Great Books, comment is an impertinence. But I like to hear of people’s encounters with them, and thought I’d attempt mine with the novel that ha ...more
not set
Jan 21, 2012
A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury: A King, a Prince, and the Knight Who Betrayed Their Dynasty
Better than Shakespeare.

To be fair, the Henry IVs were never my line in Shakespeare. Richard II, yes, and I won’t say better than a few of his speech
not set
Sep 22, 2012
A Pride of Poppies
It’s hard to rate anthologies: you’d never give five stars if it has to be for every story, and that isn’t fair on anthologies; I think my five means, ...more
not set
Feb 20, 2015
I'm told Coriolanus, the person, is unlikeable, but I happen to like him. I don't even think he's a right-wing bastard, just shy, awkward and misunder ...more
not set
Feb 12, 2012
One Part Woman
An enjoyable, involving novel, on the classic novelist's fare of individuals squeezed and pressured by the community they live in.

Kali and Ponna aren'
Jan 17, 2015
Jan 15, 2015
I enjoyed this from first page to last, and it’s different enough for a five. I like its attitudes: for one, how it takes a spanner to our sacred biol ...more
not set
Apr 21, 2014
Odinn's Child (Viking, #1)
“...this might be what Odinn was intending -- that I should be an honest chronicler of the Old Ways and the truth about the far-flung world of the Nor ...more
Aug 13, 2014
May 26, 2014
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
Jack Weatherford is a cultural anthropologist whose speciality is tribal peoples. He has written several books I value -- 'Indian Givers', 'Savages an ...more
not set
Jan 10, 2012
The Ming Storytellers
A strong four, often in five territory along the way. It has so much going for it.

I like big, ambitious books… my favourite historicals seem to be 600
Apr 26, 2014
Oct 13, 2013
History of the Arabs
I stole a library book once. It was this one.

I was a child, with no conception how to buy a book, beyond science fiction and cheap classics at my loca
not set
Apr 09, 2012
The Western Illusion of Human Nature: With Reflections on the Long History of Hierarchy, Equality and the Sublimation of Anarchy in the West, and Comparative Notes on Other Conceptions of the Human Condition
On a ‘contempt for the human’ in Western ideas, that infiltrates every area of thought because it is in our Greek underpinnings.

The Judeo-Christian tr
Jun 25, 2015
Jun 24, 2015
A fabulous shaggy beast of an epic novel.

I was won when Juan sets out on life under the influence of the romances of chivalry that turned Don Quixote
May 07, 2013
Apr 18, 2013
The Last English King
First: vividly written, feelingly, very high on ‘reality-sense’, atmosphere and peoplehood. With that, creative, unusual, and determined not to be you ...more
not set
Dec 15, 2012
The Fallen Angels of Karnataka
This book deals with dark material, in a compassionate way, without sensationalism or stereotyped evil, or sentimentality for that matter.

In the earl
Nov 04, 2014
Oct 27, 2014
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Stranger was pervasive when I was a kid and I knew it by heart along with the crowd. Had I read this then, who knows? I’m almost to sorry to have visi ...more
Aug 22, 2014
Aug 01, 2014
The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire
This is, or has, both speculative history and history told as story--as per his first on the Mongols, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. ...more
not set
Jan 10, 2012
The Forest Of Hours
It was a scrawny little troll, unknowing and guileless, and not much given to thinking at all. There was little more than fluttering, like the wings o ...more
Dec 29, 2013
Apr 12, 2012
The Golden Lynx (Legends of the Five Directions, #1)
I had fun. I’m going to make this a very, very personal review. It may or may not be of use to others.

First off: I came because I’m into steppe histo
Oct 17, 2012
Sep 30, 2012
The Forgotten Legion (Forgotten Legion Chronicles, #1)
I liked this. Ben Kane pays attention to the downtrodden and underprivileged in Rome, which I appreciate, and here he chooses an Etruscan and a Gaul a ...more
Oct 24, 2014
Oct 16, 2014
Salammbo (Annotated)
A lesson from a great master in how not to write historical fiction. Flaubert is a writer’s writer, as Spenser is called a poet’s poet, so I can say t ...more
Feb 09, 2014
Feb 02, 2014
Frustrating, in that if it had shaken off its conventionalities a little more…
Still, an emotional experience I’m lucky to have once a year with a boo
Apr 2015
Mar 30, 2015
The Crusader
This is a grim novel, much more concerned with how war ruins lives than with adventure or guts & glory. When you see that the author was involved ...more
Dec 31, 2012
Dec 27, 2012
Hue and Cry (Hew Cullan Mystery, #1)
Inescapably I thought of the Matthew Shardlake mystery I read last year – lured by what I’d heard of its dirty streets of 16th century England, C.J. S ...more
Jan 30, 2014
Jan 29, 2014
The Prehistory of Sex: Four Million Years of Human Sexual Culture
Often shaky but also open-minded. When he has a photo of Trash, a New York drag king, to point out why Trash isn’t in the least estranged from human p ...more
Apr 30, 2014
Mar 27, 2014
Women, Armies, and Warfare in Early Modern Europe
I learnt plenty about the functioning of armies -- or rather 'campaign communities', since 'army' gives a wrong impression for the time period. It's a ...more
not set
Jan 31, 2013
Attila (Attila Trilogy, #1)
Ambitious enough that I’m going on with the trilogy.

Yes, Attila is a fighting fourteen at the end of this. Or sixteen, I forget. In the beginning he
not set
Feb 05, 2013
Chinese Theater in Days of Kublai Khan
The subject is enchanting, and he's a jovial writer. I did feel the lack of social context: most of this is about the Play Itself. There's a brief exp ...more
not set
Feb 25, 2014
The Death of Virgil
So why is Virgil upset with his art?

...and this was the very reason why he had never succeeded in depicting real human beings, people who ate and dra
Sep 13, 2013
Oct 13, 2012
Ennobling Love: In Search of a Lost Sensibility
I thought it was brilliant. A different perspective on medieval love. Where study tends to compartmentalise into institutions and period – spiritual f ...more
Apr 2014
Mar 02, 2014
Dying of the Light
I was in love with this novel early in life and have it indelibly stamped upon me. The atmosphere: ruins on an abandoned planet, a few people left the ...more
not set
Jan 21, 2012
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