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on 24 January 2009
Reading this was a departure from my usual fare, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! A great rip-roaring adventure, dipping deep into the past, full of mystery, a good heap of fact and fiction and great use of English language. I liked the odd-ball mix of using cheese with exciting events in Greece and Turkey, never could you think it could be funny, not laugh out loud, but a more gentler humourous style. You don't have to be a history scholar to enjoy this, in fact it helps if you aren't, so long as you have an interest in any of the above and great writing; the pace of going back and forward in time was fast but easy to live with, you'll enjoy this too!
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VINE VOICEon 27 February 2007
Edward Trencom's Nose, debut novel from the popular history writer Giles Milton, is funny, witty in a neo-Wodeshousian sort of way and full of delightfully engaging characters. The Trencom family have been the acknowledged masters of cheese for 10 generations, running their London cheese shop since before the Great Fire of London and passing it down from father to son for over 300 years. Each eldest son also inherits a remarkable nose, a large aquiline nose with a prominent bridge and an extraordinary talent for smelling cheese, which Milton exploits too capacity. Weight-watching cheese-lovers should avoid this book or the numerous evocative, aromatic scenes describing the finest cheeses from around the world will have you diving to the fridge for more than one too many wee morsels.

This is a novel fashioned with style and elegance. An elaborate plot structure is interwoven with an account of Greco-Turkish conflict and delicately balanced with a narrow group of amusing, if somewhat one-dimensional, characters. The plot develops as Edward, the current owner of Trencom's Cheese Shop and possessor of the finest nose in generations, discovers a package of family papers in the cellar. His discoveries, together with the machinations of friends and foes, start him off an a path of adventure - adventure that is in 1960s middle class sub-urban style - which eventually both exposes and ties him to the fate of his forebearers. And here we come to the weakness of the novel: the way in which Edward's adventures play out is utterly, utterly ludicrous and the farcical denouement is deeply unrevelatory - a brave and not wholly unsuccessful attempt, one suspects, to match the well conceived plot to the mindset of its average players. Yet the overall result is unsatisfying. Make no mistake, this is a good and fun book to read, with lots of laughs and lots of cheese throughout, but the ending just doesn't quite live up to expectation. Read the book for the pleasure of the journey, but don't expect to enjoy the party when you reach your destination.
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on 19 May 2012
'Edward Trencom's Nose' was a real disappointment. It shows moments of clever wordplay, but they're overshadowed by a very strange, schoolboyish sense of humour that is used to 'entertain' the reader with descriptions of the sexual encounters of various generations of Trencom ancestors, who are either boorish or timid.

There is a story, spanning nine generations, with the Trencom male who runs the cheese shop always suffering a calamity and then mysteriously finding it essential to dash off to foreign parts on a mission that invariably leads to his death. For this 'big story', one might be tempted to press on through the interminable pages where the author has indulged himself by naming and describing a succession of cheeses that the central character is enjoying, or selling, or cataloguing, or otherwise interacting with. It's very clever... but clever does not equate to being readable, really. This book could be described as generally adequate. Never great, and sometimes tragically immature, but generally adequate. The trouble is, there are a lot of far better books out there, and only one lifetime in which to read them.

It's cute that the Trencoms are real people, and have a day job. We didn't need half a book devoted to listing and describing the different cheeses of the world, however. So, the book grinds on, and we near the climax: why is Edward Trencom being watched by foreign agents, when all he ever wanted to do was sell cheese? Ah, well, sadly there is no climax. Merely an anticlimax that leaves you regretting that you waded through so much cheese to get there.
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on 8 April 2009
Giles Milton wrote his own review when, towards the end of the book, the character Edward comments on a book written by his ancestor, Humphrey:

"From the opening sentence of page on to the last line..., it was filled with histrionics and cryptic clues, digressions and verbal perambulations. It was as if the author was playing an elaborate hoax on the reader, flipping betwixt subjects with scarcely a care in the world. The book was made even more confusing by his tendency to withhold any information that might have helped to clarify the narrative."

This passage so captured my own frustration with the book that I couldn't help thinking the author was playing a cruel joke on us readers. Too bad I had to get to almost the end of the book to find this out.
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on 12 February 2007
This is Miltons first novel, and his first foray into fiction. It comes on the back of some truly superb historical books which have him ranking among the best of the popular historians today. It was inevitable that he would try his hand at fiction.

The main problem is, I have read this book cover to cover, and I really find it hard to specify if there was actually a plot. It follows Edward Trencom, proprietor of Trencoms cheese shop, who receives a cryptic warning that his life is in danger, something confirmed by the mysterious chap following him. This revelation prompts him to start his own researches into his family history. He finds that 9 generations, from the venerable Humphrey Trencom have all died in Greece, with some clandestine struggle against the Ottoman empire.

We are treated to following Trencom through rather drab life. It charts his private life with 'Mrs Cheese', his researches, and his shop. There is far too much depth given to the variety of cheeses, with pages devoted to some fairly obscure dairy products. This is interspersed with the exploits of his forbears, and their deaths abroad in the service of the Greeks.

We sense a slow change in Trencom, which seems to be genetically related to his ancestors. They all seemed to suffer a loss of smell (not good for the man with the keenest nose in Britain), and each generation the shop seems to incur some incident which threatens its closure. We sense it is inevitable, given these portents, and history, that Trencom will follow in those footsteps and join the mysterious struggle.

And to be honest, that's about it. It is supposed to be funny, with the such things like Trencoms witticisms at the cheese tasting dinner, but they never really raise more than a curl of the lip. The supposed humour never really materialises and we are treated to a rather dreary and over-long novel that could certainly have been condensed.

I went into reading this with a true desire to like it. I loved his other works, and felt sure his writing would win the day here. The book is a disjointed mess and would never have been published if he hadn't already built up a loyal readership. The ending is not satisfying and I feel rather let down to be honest.
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on 15 January 2012
I agree with other reviewers, this is not the best novel ever written, but it is entertaining. I haven't checked to see if all the cheeses featured in the book are real, I didn't recognise many of them.

The alternate history/modern chapter structure was a neat way of telling the tale and there was humour in parts. As I reached the last 30 or so pages I felt the need to read to the end in one session, something some books don't do for me.
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on 26 December 2007
Possibly the worst novel that I have ever read! There is a complete lack of humour and pages upon pages taken up with lists of cheeses (the height of comedy for some maybe).
The story isn't gripping, the ending is poor and the characters are lifeless. A complete waste of time for anyone that isn't a fromage fetishist!
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on 24 November 2007
Giles Milton's books on history are fantastic reads but this novel doesn't do anything for me. He should stick to what he does best.
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on 7 January 2008
Well written, eccentric (not laugh out loud) humour, novel, I enjoyed it and would recommend it.
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on 30 March 2007
The author is a respected writer in another field - and he should stick to it. The plot is so thin that it's undetectable most of the time. We are offered Woodhousian humour, but all we get is wooden writing. The core of the plot is so implausible that it damages the whole story and the denoument is so thin and feeble that it spoils the whole thing.

A serious disappointment and a waste of money. Burrow it from the library to satisfy your curiousity if you must, be don't bother to buy it
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