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Pretty Girl In Crimson Rose [Kindle Edition]

Sandy Balfour
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £7.99
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Book Description

Half a million people a day do it in the Telegraph. The Times claims almost as many, and the Guardian 300,000. Most people remember their first time, and everyone has a favourite. You can do it in bed, standing up, or on a train. You can do it alone, with a loved one or in groups. The Queen does it in the bath. It is not illegal, immoral or fattening. In fact it tops the Home Office list of approved entertainments for prison inmates. Crosswords are a very British obsession.

Product Description

Amazon Review

In Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8), award-winning documentary filmmaker Sandy Balfour traces the history of his longstanding fascination with the construction and solving of crosswords, and searches deeper, into the multiplicity of languages, and the relationship between setter and solver that at first appears cruel and combative, but establishes itself as empathetic and playful.

On the way, he reflects on matters less cerebral: his early life in Apartheid-era South Africa, his transplantation to Britain, the travels and tribulations of international filmmaking, and a personal journey to fatherhood; all the time both burdened and enabled by the seemingly conflicting modes of thinking--unfettered and rebellious, pedantic and disciplined--that characterise the successful cryptic crossword. The book is studded with cryptic clues (thankfully, and instructively solved later), and culminates in a crossword set by the author's chief tormentor, and hero, Araucaria, of the Guardian, which appeared in the newspaper to celebrate Balfour's 40th birthday.

Balfour writes in an easy, discursive style, and while it's doubtful that complete newcomers to cryptic puzzles will find him an entirely suitable tutor (try instead How To Do The Times Crossword), he is at least blessed with a wonderful capacity to enthuse. Crossword regulars should seek no more elaborate invitation than the challenge of the book's title. --Alex Hankin


‘A charming book...some of us have a new ambition – to be the next Sandy Balfour’ -- Sunday Times

‘A little gem...lingers in the memory long after the final page’ -- Val Gilbert, Sunday Telegraph

‘An extraordinary memoir… A mesh of journeys and destinations, politics and romance, it touches what is beyond words’ -- Sophie Ratcliffe, The Times

‘This beautiful book is as enigmatic and pleasurable as a perfect crossword clue' -- Francis Wheen

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 469 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (7 Nov. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00G8NX33O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #443,478 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cryptic Love Story 18 Feb. 2003
By A Customer
My expectations of this book were guarded as I had been urged to read it by my crossword-addicted father as he believed it would finally break down my resistance to what has always appeared to me to an unfathomably tedious pastime. I had no idea that I would be immediately and so wholly entranced by Balfour's candid yet enigmatic tale of falling in love with this country and its sensibilities through the seemingly innocuous cryptic crossword puzzle. And that's the magic of this superbly written and totally original memoir - the reader discovers that clues, solutions and grids serve a far more intriguing purpose than merely filling up endless commuter time. Crosswords, Balfour seems to suggest, both illuminate and throw fresh shadows upon the big and small issues that perplex us all and tell us far more about Britain and Britishness then any other comment or feature article that a broadsheet newspaper may include. But that is, as they say, only half the story. By far the real substance of this book - and it is what makes it so compelling - is the story of a man's travels across continents and towards identity and true home. Balfour tells with warmth, wit and disarming honesty how he left his native South Africa in the 1980s to avoid military conscription and headed towards an uncertain future with his girlfriend. This beautifully balanced relationship is the actual axis of the book and imperceptibly welds together the twin aspects of Balfour's obsessions: puzzles and love. Has the author inspired me into a new and beautiful phase of paternal bonding? Probably not because one still requires the right kind of brain matter to slove my father's beloved crosswords. But more importantly he has written a book to keep and cherish.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A captivating memoir 21 Aug. 2007
By hiljean VINE VOICE
I had been intrigued by cryptic crosswords but had no idea how to solve them when I came across this book, which unlocked some of the unwritten rules and revealed the other side - the crossword setters. Balfour's growing passion for cryptic crosswords provoked a desire in me to learn how to master them myself. I duly attended a one-week course and the art of a the cryptic crossword has now become a passion of mine. What more can you ask of a book, but that it inspires you to take on new challenges?

The fact that the book is also a journey of self-discovery for the author is an added bonus and altogether I felt it made for a really unusual and interesting memoir.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Playful structure for very readable memoir 25 Feb. 2003
By A Customer
This short - one might say handy - little book would make an excellent travelling companion. It's an agreeable memoir of various (mainly quite recent) foreign travels, built around a strong interest in crosswords. Indeed the overall effect is a bit like a crossword, with intersecting experiences and connections that slowly build into a recognizable thematic whole. The writing is pleasant, and the author's personality comes over as both intelligent and likable. Certainly one does not have to like crosswords to enjoy it (although it probably helps).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fanscinating book 17 July 2009
I found out about this author through his very good book on cricket 'What I love about cricket' and discovered I had alot in common with him (ex-South African, draft-dodger, etc, etc).
His writing style is very effective with a lovely flow. The book, I found, really comes alive when he writes about his family but I found myself floundering with the crossword references (as I have never been a fan).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this book - you won't regret it. 29 May 2008
You don't have to enjoy crosswords to think this is a book quite out of the ordinary: at times touching and at times it had me laughing out loud. But if you are interested in crosswords - or more particularly the people who compile them and the people who solve them - then this is a book you should already have read.
And no, I'm not a relation of Mr Balfour.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping read with great insights 26 Jan. 2010
I'm not a crossword person myself though I've had a few people try to explain them to me in the past and this book suceeds where they've all failed. Part memoir part exploration of the art of the cryptic crossword this book is beautifully written and recommended to all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Minor Classic 24 April 2014
By John
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very fine read full of interest and a curious mix of various themes of love, travel and the whole story of the crossword puzzle. This may sound weird, but hang on and enjoy. If by any chance you have never really got cryptic crosswords, then this is a wonderful, witty and satisfying way into the jungle......
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as I hoped.
I enjoyed it. Well written, interesting, humorous and moving. Just what a memoir should be. I think I would like Sandy Balfour.
Published 9 months ago by M M T Law
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty girl in Crimson Rose
An intriguing way of writing a novel around the concept of crosswords. I found it good reading and if you love cryptic crosswords you will enjoy this book. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Jaynee
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful tale
A romance of crossword-solving including interaction with that legend Araucaria. Recommended for anyone who loves cryptic puzzles and a well-written tale.
Published 22 months ago by R.J.F.Houston
5.0 out of 5 stars Cryptic crossword fans will love this book
Bought this for a friend who enjoys cryptic crosswords. She adored it. Said it has crossword clues within the story of the book which was most interesting. Read more
Published 23 months ago by M C JONES
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
Very funny, and very entertaining. This ought to be on th wish-list of any croswsword solver or -would-ne solver, whatver their present skill or lack of it with crossworPretty Girl... Read more
Published on 8 Dec. 2009 by Dr. Christopher H. Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving biography
I read Sandy Balfour's previous memoir, Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8) which is about 'love, exile and crosswords' and I loved it. Read more
Published on 6 Oct. 2005
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but rather aimless
An interesting history of how the author ended up in the UK and how he came to love crosswords, rightly described as a quintessential English pastime. Read more
Published on 3 Jan. 2004
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