All the bad stereotypes of dusty old grammarians are here. Civilisation will collapse without grammar, we're told in deadly earnest. If the sex of a sAll the bad stereotypes of dusty old grammarians are here. Civilisation will collapse without grammar, we're told in deadly earnest. If the sex of a subject isn't known, NEVER use "they". No, use "he" instead (sorry women!). Gwynne doesn't even consider the possibility of mixing hes and shes to rectify this. It all honks of Daily Mail and public schools. I felt like mucking up my grammar for a week in protest.
Reading this felt like being lectured by a 1930s schoolmaster. Give me Strunk and White or Tredinnick over this any day....more
A marvel. This is a dreamlike fantasy set in a small European town just before the war. I'm not sure if you can say there's a plot to it, and usuallyA marvel. This is a dreamlike fantasy set in a small European town just before the war. I'm not sure if you can say there's a plot to it, and usually that would put me off, but the descriptions are so rich and capable of spilling over into metamorphosis, so characters shift into animals and back, everything feels possible and the flaring images and dazzling ideas take centre stage. You stumble through the book unsure how one piece ties to the next, but just going with it, just like you would in a dream. From the outset, this book explodes with imagination, colouring and glorifying a nostalgia for a childhood, and perhaps a town, now lost....more
I haven't written a screenplay yet, let alone sold one off the back of reading this book, but I found this book engaging and interesting. It was the fI haven't written a screenplay yet, let alone sold one off the back of reading this book, but I found this book engaging and interesting. It was the first book I'd read that laid bare the skeleton of storytelling, and managed to do so convincingly using numerous sources that readers will know. In the end, it might perhaps become a little proscriptive, with numerous plot stages with sub stages; but he sounds like he knows what he's doing, I've read other similar books since and this one still stands out, and Stein has stuck with me so I can never watch a film or read a book in quite the same way again. Would certainly recommend to budding writers of any kind....more
A fascinating read if you're travelling around Singapore or Malaysia and are interested in its colonial history. You get a real sense of the places heA fascinating read if you're travelling around Singapore or Malaysia and are interested in its colonial history. You get a real sense of the places he's describing, some are still explorable today, while other scenes (notably Singapore) have now changed beyond recognition. There're also some great tips about how to avoid getting eaten by Tigers....more
I read this when I was about fifteen and thought it was pretty rubbish even then. Shaun Hutson writes the kind of books that get turned into the crappI read this when I was about fifteen and thought it was pretty rubbish even then. Shaun Hutson writes the kind of books that get turned into the crappy eighties horror films that end up in the value bin of your local VHS store. But Lucy's Child doesn't even have that. It's all psychological and past trauma and yawn and finally a screwdriver.
However, if crappy horror is your thing, opt for his Death Day. Rage-virus-style super zombies invade a small county in England. It's stupid, gory, but that's why we go for daft eighties horror. It ends (if memory serves) with Manchester PD, who apparently don't believe the tales of the zombies, palming the local constabulary off by arming them with an arsenal of magnums and shotguns. Carnage ensues.
**spoiler alert** This was a curious but ultimately dissatisfying read.
It shook me off right at the start when our heroes accidentally kill someone an**spoiler alert** This was a curious but ultimately dissatisfying read.
It shook me off right at the start when our heroes accidentally kill someone and don't seem to care. I didn't buy it. They wouldn't act like that. For a book that relies so heavily on realism and strong characters (granted, Tam and Richie are great), having them behave so unnaturally from the get go really put me off. So I thought I was reading a comedy novel with a poor sense of human psychology. Or sloppy plotting that wanted to spice up the opening with a death, which then had absolutely no impact on the rest of the story.
Then towards the end events kept repeating and things started to get increasingly Kafkaesque, and I realised that perhaps the whole story is more like an allegory for life and death, and so that's how the manslaughter fits in. Perhaps.
It's just an odd mix: laconic narrator, hapless characters, existential allegories with uncharacteristic acts of casual manslaughter thrown in, all concluded very suddenly. It doesn't quite work. Snip the manslaughter and it probably would have had me. But if it was just a metaphor for the fact that we all die and nobody cares and life rolls on, well, I would have got that from the Hall bros sausage plant, the fences that cage people and the endless cycle of drudgery.
If you're interested in a kind of League of Gentlemen do Kafka tragi-comedy, give it a whirl. I didn't resent reading it, and it did stay with me for a few days after. But in the end I have to conclude that the pieces didn't quite fit together for me. ...more
It did indeed make a dream become a reality. Excellent little book that helped me and my girlfriend realise that a proper little adventure was withinIt did indeed make a dream become a reality. Excellent little book that helped me and my girlfriend realise that a proper little adventure was within our reach.
A Time of Gifts charts the first part of a young Patrick Leigh Fermor's walk across Europe in 1933, and it is a joy to read from beginning to end.
FirsA Time of Gifts charts the first part of a young Patrick Leigh Fermor's walk across Europe in 1933, and it is a joy to read from beginning to end.
First of all, the set-up: a reckless young lad is kicked out of school, tries to become a writer, goes broke, and decides to walk to Constantinople. And If that wasn't enough for you, he does this just a few years before war breaks out, so we see what Germany was like just after Hitler came to power and how the continent seems in the run-up to destruction. It all seems rather merry and innocuous.
Bobbing along on his backpack, we're taken on an illuminating trail over the hills, through the towns and into the woods as he ambles his way through the countries. He manages to blend the tramps life sleeping beside hayricks with extended stays in the castles of the landed gentry. He made an impression back then, and this same energy bursts out of the page in his writing.
Which brings me on to point number two: how he captures it all. Fermor is an exceptional writer. His is the long, descriptive prose of the old ways, but it fizzes with energy and a sense of tumbling through vivid scenes as his poetic mind wheels colours, shapes, sounds and creatures around to place you THERE. I couldn't help but beam at some of his turns of phrases. Describing Hindenberg in a photograph as having "the torpid solidity of a hippopotamus", or a wonderful piece near the end as he sleeps under the stars, gazing at the river as "the line of moon's reflection lay amidstream where the current runs fastest and shivered and flashed there like quicksilver."
Be prepared to work a little - I had to look up a few architectural terms to stay on top of his detailed asides about the design of monasteries' interiors. My volcabulary went up a notch in the process, but it's worth it just to join him in marvelling at the beauty of it all. And let's be honest, checking a word only takes 5 seconds on your phone these days.
Finally, he peppers the story with fascinating little insights into the world he encounters. Architecture I've covered, but he also plunges into history, literature, languages, genealogy, and delivered with the urgency and excitement of a peculiarly articulate youth.
I usually wait a week after reading before I rate anything five stars, but I've known from very early on reading this that here is everything that a good book should be: a marvellous story delivered with the sense of magic and wonder it deserves. This is One Of Those Books. Go read.