The African scenes are vintage Boyd, but if it were one of his 'normal' novels it wouldn't be too churlish to say it lacks his usual depth of characterisation and warm storytelling. However it massively ticks the boxes of the usual 007 tropes of bad guys, bad sex and slightly unbelievable criminal masterplans, laced with Bond nee Flemming's taste for luxury.
I'd give it a 3.5 and I'd give Bryce Fitzjohn 1. Ho ho....more
Pretty good, and infinitely less magic-realist than Marquez' more famous novels, although maybe this made it less satisfactory than 100 Years of SolitPretty good, and infinitely less magic-realist than Marquez' more famous novels, although maybe this made it less satisfactory than 100 Years of Solitude/Love in a Time of Cholera etc. Possibly, but maybe this made it more accessible and easier to follow. I can't make up my mind.
Anyway, I suppose the whole conceit of a whole town being aware of the imminent murder, is quite unreal. Damn you GGM!...more
Now here's a weird and un-planned coincidence: I finished Bram Stoker's most famous work (although obviously Lair of the White Worm with Hugh Grant &a
Now here's a weird and un-planned coincidence: I finished Bram Stoker's most famous work (although obviously Lair of the White Worm with Hugh Grant & Amanda Donohoe is his best film) ON HIS BIRTHDAY! What would Van Helsing say? Probably that he is un-dead if he's still celebrating...
Amusingly over-wrought, especially towards the end, and about a good 100 pages too long, it's still a compelling read. Sensationalist and Gothic in all best ways, although I'm not sure he'd have gotten away with an accent like VHs these days ...more
The public are amazing. Just when you think you're going to get either a 50-50 split between Shakespeare and rude limericks, you end up delving into aThe public are amazing. Just when you think you're going to get either a 50-50 split between Shakespeare and rude limericks, you end up delving into a mad world of odd, classic poems many of which I'd never heard of. Which is a bit shaming for an English graduate.
Hey ho. On the upside, my favourite new finds were Remember, The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes, To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell, Sea-Fever by John Masefield, Warning by Jenny Joseph, Loveliest of Trees the Cherry Now by AE Houseman, The Ruined Maid by Thomas Hardy, Futility by Wilfred Owen, Tam O'Shanter by Robert Burns, Love's Philosophy by Shelley, Warming Her Pearls by Carol Ann Duffy, Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye and the old favourite, Adelstrop.
This is one of two books I inherited from my mum's parents, the other being Anna Karenina. I remember going up to my grandpa's house after he died andThis is one of two books I inherited from my mum's parents, the other being Anna Karenina. I remember going up to my grandpa's house after he died and reading this, by an open fire, drinking Stones Ginger Wine the night of his funeral. I must have been about 16-17, and me and my brother were the only people in the house as our parents stayed with my aunt.
Anyway, maybe it was the age thing, being hyper-sensitive because of the funeral, it being a windy, stormy night, or the ginger wine, but I read the whole thing in a night. Instantly it became one of my favourite books, and I read it loads leading up to, and at, college.
Fifteen-odd years later, it's still as vivid and vibrant as I remember it. If anything it's got better, in that my understanding of the Spanish Civil War has (marginally) improved, and his early days in Putney now have a new resonance due to our six year residency there since the last time I read it.
Limpid, clear, empathetic prose, an amusing story and an easy to like (real life) hero, exploring a world that existed only a generation ago but has completely disappeared, and one which subsequent literary heroes fought to maintain, this is a journey that really has stood the test of time. I'm delighted to discover it remains one of my favourite books......more
It's incredibly easy reading; short chapters, clear prose which doesn't try to obsfucate the story, aBy turns absorbing, touching and really annoying.
It's incredibly easy reading; short chapters, clear prose which doesn't try to obsfucate the story, and characters who are accessible and sympathetic. Until Book Two that is, where the trial raises some uncomfortable questions.
There's an obvious one about culpability of the Holocaust, in this case specifically the atrocity committed (or not averted) by the women guards, as well as a more general questioning of the German people. Schlink takes the position, via Michael, that it's up to the new generation to shine a light on their parents past, and seek out past crimes.
However the link between Hanna's illiteracy, her guilt and Germany's guilt is a pretty weak metaphor, which gets weaker as they both seek to assuage her conscience by not fessing up to the fact she can neither read or write.
Still, it's beautifully written if a touch vexing....more
Word to the wise, ignore the notes - whilst interesting, the sheer volume of them does ruin the whippet-fast flow of Hornung's tales of derring-do byWord to the wise, ignore the notes - whilst interesting, the sheer volume of them does ruin the whippet-fast flow of Hornung's tales of derring-do by his criminal heroes and anti-Holmes and Watson, Raffles and Bunny....more
Not quite as laugh-out loud as the debut, but still compelling and not just in a maudlin nostalgic way.
ThIn and out in a day (well an evening) - Boom!
Not quite as laugh-out loud as the debut, but still compelling and not just in a maudlin nostalgic way.
This time there's a lot more poignancy as Adrian hits his mid-teens and struggles to cope with a broken home, shattered love, death, depression, BBC rejection, 38 spots and looming O-levels. Even the dog has a hard time.
Robert Manwaring, I suspect this was exactly like your youth. ...more
I was well pleased to note I remembered pretty much all of this, since last reading it at college - and aIf only becomming a Tao master took two days!
I was well pleased to note I remembered pretty much all of this, since last reading it at college - and actually I did put some of it into action. Uncarved block and all that, it's part of my secret to not being too cracked about stuff. Some of the time obviously.
It's well written, easy to digest and the bits where Hoff uses extracts from Winnie the Pooh don't feel too randomly wedged in. There are some odd Americanisms though.
I even had a little tear in my eye at the end when Christopher Robin and Pooh go to Sixty Something Tree Top. It made me think of milo and white bear......more
Another book I read as a kid and have picked up on the totally unreasonable assumption Milo will love it when he's older. In my mind Emil's adventuresAnother book I read as a kid and have picked up on the totally unreasonable assumption Milo will love it when he's older. In my mind Emil's adventures seemed to last for at least a week, but in reality it's only a day and a night, and I completely forgot his cousin is called "Pony" - surely a name for a future Barnes?...more
Dec 2008: The perfect Christmas gift, only matched by a hearty Midsomer Murders boxset (oh yes), and importantly both stories at about 50 pages each aDec 2008: The perfect Christmas gift, only matched by a hearty Midsomer Murders boxset (oh yes), and importantly both stories at about 50 pages each are the perfect length to last the length of morning and afternoon baby naps. Quelle dommage!
Dec 2009: One of the first books in my new 'Christmas Tradition Regime' - it's still bloody (bastards) marvellous, although if I was pushed to pick a favourite of the two stories it would be the first with Colonel Gurdin. I wish Bernie would write some more short stories, they fill in nice gaps and the last wave of filler Sharpe's have been a bit duff. Roll on next year......more
Even with the updated afterward and chapters, this is essentially a very big story struggling to get out of a thin book about a man cycling up a mountEven with the updated afterward and chapters, this is essentially a very big story struggling to get out of a thin book about a man cycling up a mountain and dying at the top.
Where it gets interesting are the vignettes from Simpson's life that Fotheringham unearths, each one fleshing out the man who for most of us only exists as a memorial stone on Mount Ventoux, and few grainy photos.
What emerges is a hugely appealing personality, whose drive and ambition, tragically combined with the treadmill of professional cycling, and which contributed to his untimely death.
What's disappointing is whilst it is touched on, the bigger story lurking in the background is really about drugs in the sport and the collusion involved of the industry, which still cloud the issue 30 years on. Both of which mean whilst Fotheringham can build an intriguing narrative of Simpson's life, his death remains shrouded in murky mystery....more
Ohhhh, get me reading Icelandic sagas from one thousand years ago. One. Thousand. Years. Ago.
Actually this a brilliantly easy-reading saga beyond theOhhhh, get me reading Icelandic sagas from one thousand years ago. One. Thousand. Years. Ago.
Actually this a brilliantly easy-reading saga beyond the fact THE Magnus "I've started so I've finished" Magnusson, translated it. Strangely enough, when you read the blurb you think this is going to be some middle-English drag-a-thon, more struggle than fun read, admittedly one that features Vikings.
*However* once you get beyond the introduction (which is longer than both sagas combined), essentially what you've got is an amazingly accessible tale of the discovery of America - times two - replete with fraught sea voyages, mu-rder (think Taggart), Thor, and encounters with hostile natives or Skraelings... aren't Skraelings in The Amber Spyglass?
Even more intriguingly, it appears the average middle-age Norse monk writes a bit like a bonkers twelve-year-old with an over-active imagination, and a great idea what makes a good yarn. Or maybe Magnus had a few too many horns of ale?...more
Britain's most famous Icelander is at it again, only this time telling the tale of the last great Viking king, Harald, who ruthlessly subjugated NorwaBritain's most famous Icelander is at it again, only this time telling the tale of the last great Viking king, Harald, who ruthlessly subjugated Norway and attempted to invade England in 1066. Confusingly he was beaten by King Harold at the battle of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire, and Harold was then beaten by Harald's nephew (?) at the Battle of Hastings. This is not the end of being confused in an admittedly very-slim volume.
The sheer amount of pillaging, double-dealing, trickery, chicanery and verses dedicated to axes chopping enemies up, all add up to a certain amount of deja-vu. Particularly as most of Norway, Denmark and Sweden are related to each other, and called Ulf, Olaf, Harald, or Sven.
Griping aside, the early tales of Harald's exploits in the Middle East are full of derring-do and exotic mystery, and the fact the Icelandic court poets weren't exactly in the James Joyce league of literary obfuscation, made this a fairly easy romp. Even if the names confused matter....more
**spoiler alert** One of the Mitford girls, sister of one of Hitler's alleged girlfriend's (the appositely-named Unity Valkyrie Mitford), Oswald Mosel**spoiler alert** One of the Mitford girls, sister of one of Hitler's alleged girlfriend's (the appositely-named Unity Valkyrie Mitford), Oswald Moseley's wife (Diana), the current Duchess of Devonshire (Debo), and Nancy, Jessica went completely the opposite way. She eloped to Spain to fight in the Civil War and ended up in America.
Skip onwards 50 years and she's become a widow, calls her daughter 'Dinky Donk', remarried, joined the American Communist Party, spearheaded racial integration and social projects in the face of extreme Governmental provocation; she took down the US Funeral and Spa businesses, became close friends with Maya Angelou, Leadbelly, refers to Jon Snow as 'the packer' because he packs for her, and Christ knows what other mad, and utterly utterly brilliant things. Fuck, she owns an island! She is and was a complete genius and this is without doubt one of the best books I've ever read, and to prove it I'll leave you with two random quote. Both excellent, and tell you all you need to know:
October 24th, 1969 "Debo was at Head weekend, and marvellous old codger called Lord Hardwick. A sample Hardwick story: "There was this fellow I know in the Foreign Office. A memorandum came across his desk - it was full of utter bosh, don't you know, so he was going to write BALLS on it. But he though that was a bit steep, so instead he wrote ROUND OBJECTS. Memo comes back from Tony Eden (PM) with a note: 'Who the devil is this fellow Round & what does he object to?"
November 3rd, 1971 "My brother-in-law, Giles Romilly, was a homosexual from the time I knew him (he was about 21 when we first met). He had some pretty horrible experiences in the war. Came back, got married, had 3 children. Divorced, remarried, went totally bonkers, committed suicide. I can't help wondering if he wouldn't have been far better off sticking to his original metier, so to speak?..."
Despite William Dalrymple's deeply upsetting background of being posh, and having wealthy relatives allowing him to potter around ancient castles inDespite William Dalrymple's deeply upsetting background of being posh, and having wealthy relatives allowing him to potter around ancient castles in Scotland and seemingly taking random years off without having to work, it's a pretty inspiring read.
There's more to Dehli than curry and he picks it apart to reveal the fascinating, multi-layered history beneath the stereotypical surface.
It made me want to seek out the two Eighteenth Century books he used as a guide to learn more. And not only that, who knew Cliff Richard was an Anglo-Indian?
Miss Lucy Ferguson, a top recommendation - I salute you!...more
I learned babies, late nights and cycling into work make reading much harder than it used to be. This was probably quite a good book - and it's one I'I learned babies, late nights and cycling into work make reading much harder than it used to be. This was probably quite a good book - and it's one I've been waiting to read for aaaages, but a combination of the above kept interrupting my flow.
Possibly a shame because it is a sad story. The background research is obviously impeccable and for once William Dalrymple is a background figure, yet yet yet... A good third of the book is taken up with scene-setting which made going even slower, and over-detailing every incident only confused matters.
However this amazing source stands out: A LADIES MONITOR Being a series of letters first published in Bengal on the subject of FEMALE APPAREL. Tending to favour a regulated adoption of Indian Costume; and a rejection of SUPERFLUOUS VESTURE by the ladies of theis country: with Incidental remarks on Hindoo beauty; whale bone stays; iron busks; Indian corsets; man-milliners; idle bachelors, hair powder, side saddles, waiting-maids; and footmen. By the author of A VINDICATION OF THE HINDOOS