ARRAY(0xa6d92fa8)
 
Profile for Gordon Eldridge > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Gordon Eldridge
Top Reviewer Ranking: 2,624
Helpful Votes: 948

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Gordon Eldridge (Brussels, Belgium)
(REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
pixel
Chocolat
Chocolat
by Joanne Harris
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brimming with passion for life, 26 Dec 2007
This review is from: Chocolat (Paperback)
Joanna Harris creates a rich and vibrant description of a rural French village with all its petty rivalries and traditional, narrow-minded boundaries on thought and behavior. Each of the main characters is hemmed in by these restrictions and must keep certain devils from their past or present lives secreted away so as not to become more of an outsider than they already are and in particular so as not to incite the condemnation of the local parish Priest. Into this scenario comes Mademoiselle Rocher who, despite having her own devils to deal with, brings the promise of freedom embodied in the delights of the chocolate she sells. The characters are inspiring, the descriptions full of life and vigour and the narrative sparkling. The way each of the characters deals with their respective devils makes this a total feel-good novel, but one which is not only enthralling, but also thought-provoking from start to finish.


Life of Pi
Life of Pi
by Yann Martel
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.79

9 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Full of unrealized potential, 23 Dec 2007
This review is from: Life of Pi (Paperback)
The novel is divided into three sections. The first covers Pi's life as a child growing up at the zoo his father owns, the second is his struggle for survival trapped in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger after the ship his family was migrating to Canada on sinks, and the final section tell of how he narrates his story to investigators from the shipping company.

The story of his travails on the open ocean begins on the border of fantasy and reality, but becomes more and more fantastical as it proceeds, until we are treated to a description of an algae island that could not possibly exist, but is nevertheless utterly fascinating. Pi's struggles with fear and despair center on his efforts to dominate the tiger he is forced to share the lifeboat with. The presence of the tiger gives him purpose and the novel has real moments of beauty where we can see the indomitable nature of the human spirit at work.

Unfortunately, the novel's potential is largely destroyed by two things. The first is the character of Pi himself, who also is the narrator of his own story. He comes across as an irritating dweeb who can, for example, spend two whole pages fretting to the point of distraction that he might not recognize a person he has arranged to meet in a crowded place, when he in fact knows the person extremely well, and whose attempts at humour are feeble at best. The second is that the author attempts to turn parts of the book into a sermon on religion. In the final section the investigators are given a possible alternative story to the one where he is trapped on the lifeboat with the tiger. The second story is ostensibly more plausible and the investigators are asked to choose which they like better. If left at that, the third section could possibly have made an interesting conclusion to the novel, but the author feels he must bash the reader over the head with his own interpretation of which story is better, so we are left with the trite conclusion that just because we have never seen something does not mean we should not believe it. One of the characters at the beginning claims that this story will make the reader believe in God, but such superficial platitudes seem an unlikely way to achieve this.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 27, 2009 9:32 AM GMT


World Without End
World Without End
by Ken Follett
Edition: Hardcover

159 of 167 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating medieval intrigue, 18 Dec 2007
This review is from: World Without End (Hardcover)
Many novels are slow to start as they lay the foundations for what is to come later, but right from the opening pages this novel is likely to suck you in and make you not want to put it down. The novel is set in a 14th Century town and the surrounding villages. Though it is a sequel to a previous novel, the setting is quite a bit later in time and it is not at all necessary to have read the earlier book in order to be able to enjoy this one. The novel is brimming with fascinating intrigue and torrid love affairs. Novels of this kind set in the present can often descend to the level of a mere soap opera and become uninteresting. Here the power relationships inherent in the medieval setting make the Machiavellian conniving of the characters engaging and at times thought-provoking. We see the power of nobles over their serfs, the power of the King over his nobles, the power of the Church over the people and the power of men over women, all explored through a truly captivating plot. The novel is peopled with characters some of whom we despise and others whom we feel total empathy with. Some of the characters accept the status quo of medieval life and others buck the system from start to finish. Unavoidably, in a story powered by this kind of intrigue, the complications in the plot are occasionally solved in a way that is somewhat contrived. The strength of this novel is that the solutions are always remarkably creative and the author never cheats by introducing unrealistic or previously unknown elements into the story. More than this, however, the solutions are always totally believable given the natures of the compelling characters Follett has created. A great read.


Sams Teach Yourself Macromedia Flash 8 in 24 Hours
Sams Teach Yourself Macromedia Flash 8 in 24 Hours
by Phillip Kerman
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent step-by-step overview, 16 Dec 2007
Flash is a complex program with innumerable functions. Phillip Kerman breaks the program down into bite-size chunks and leads you through each one step by step. His explanations are concise and easy to understand and always followed immediately by practical exercises so that right from the outset you get your hands dirty creating things using the program. The absolute beginner will have a solid overview of the basic functions of Flash by the end of the book and be able to begin experimenting with a project. The book's well-organized structure and detailed index would also make it ideal as a reference tool for those who already have some knowledge of the program.


Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth
Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth
by Naguib Mahfouz
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.41

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Utterly Fanciful, 13 Dec 2007
It is difficult to determine what this novel is trying to be. As a piece of historical fiction it is utterly fanciful. Writers of historical novels must always choose from the evidence available to support their literary interpretation of history. In this case, however, Mahfouz (an otherwise talented writer) blatantly ignores the weight of historical evidence. Among other things, Akhenaten did not invent a new god. He decided that the worship of the Aten (a manifestation of the sun god Re) should prevail over Egypt's other gods. The city of Akhetaten was not abandoned before Akhenaten's death (at least it is extremely unlikely that this was the case). Evidence suggests that Tutankhamun initially reigned from Akhetaten. As these events are pivotal to the narrative rewriting the evidence is perhaps forgivable, but a historical novel must at least attempt to be true to the ideas of the period. What we have in this novel is the imposition of modern ideas such as freedom of worship, personal faith in God etc. onto the ancient world. These concepts had no place in the religion of ancient Egypt. Even if we allow that Akhenaten had experienced an epiphany which allowed him to create these ideas, the story hinges on them being part of the fabric of ancient Egyptian thinking.

It is possible that the novel is not really trying to be a piece of historical fiction. Assuming Akhenaten did hold deep religious convictions that differed from the mainstream of his time, the conception of the novel, as a set of interviews with both enemies and friends, is a potentially interesting way to explore the trials of someone in his situation. On this level the novel holds some interest, but the viewpoints expressed are somewhat simplistic. The idea has potential, but it just doesn't quite work.


Antony and Cleopatra
Antony and Cleopatra
by Colleen McCullough
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captures the very essence of ancient Rome, 8 Dec 2007
This review is from: Antony and Cleopatra (Hardcover)
Historical fiction always has the seeming disadvantage that the reader already knows the story, at least in broad strokes, and worse still, knows the outcome. This is no handicap whatsoever to Colleen McCullough. She has fashioned the historical figures into thoroughly vibrant and believable characters. Though the story is narrated in the third person, the reader is regularly treated to short passages in the first person that allow insights into the characters and their motivations. These insights sweep us into the lives of these famous figures. We are horrified along with Antony's generals at the machinations of Cleopatra, yet at the same time we empathize with his feelings for her. We are shattered along with Cleopatra at the realizations and the decisions she is forced to make towards the end. We share Octavian's hopes and dreams and, though horrified by some of his acts, we understand their roots. The glimpses inside the minds of these people of the ancient world allow us more than just an understanding of their character. Woven through their thoughts, words and deeds is masterful portrayal of ancient Rome herself and the ideas and concepts that sustained one of the world's greatest empires. McCullough builds such a tangible depiction of ideas like dignitas, auctoritas and mos maiorum, that we understand them without the need of the handy glossary she has provided. The novel is a masterpiece.


Hatchepsut: The Female Pharaoh
Hatchepsut: The Female Pharaoh
by Joyce Tyldesley
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.39

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful portrait of the world's first truly powerful woman, 6 Dec 2007
Joyce Tyldesley provides us with a thorough examination of the evidence surrounding the pharaoh Hatchepsut. She discusses issues such as the disputed order of succession, the conspicuous over-use of propaganda by Hatchepsut to legitimize her power and the question of exactly who attempted to erase the name of Hatchepsut from the monuments and why. Her arguments in each case are based on a judicious weighing of the evidence and the reader is always provided with alternative interpretations from other scholars. Tyldesley systematically dismantles the prevalent opinion that many of the actions of both Hatchepsut herself and her stepson Tuthmosis were motivated by a deadly enmity. On this issue she suggests that Tuthmosis was relatively accepting of the co-regency his stepmother imposed on him, but fails to suggest a convincing motivation for this. The one real disappointment in the book is that Tyldesley does not provide us with any real suggestion as to how Hatchepsut was able to succeed in establishing herself as pharaoh. She emphasizes that Hatchepsut would have needed both an acceptable reason and widespread support among the powerful men of the kingdom to be able to go against maat (the Egyptian concept of tradition and balance) and establish herself as king, but does not provide us with a plausible suggestion as to what such a reason may have been or whose support may have been responsible for her success. Admittedly, there are unlikely to be definitive answers, but these questions are barely raised. All in all, the book is an intriguing and insightful portrait of the world's first truly powerful woman.


Phantom (Sword of Truth 10)
Phantom (Sword of Truth 10)
by Terry Goodkind
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite up to the usual standard, 1 Dec 2007
I have read all nine of the books that preceded this one in the series and have eagerly awaited the release of each one. There are certain characteristics which make a fantasy novel outstanding. The primary one of course is that the author creates a world which captures the imagination of readers. In order to be effective, a fantasy world, no matter how many of the rules of our own world it breaks, must abide by the laws of nature that exist within that world. Very few authors since Tolkien have ever achieved this. Most cheat at some stage to resolve the plot complications they have introduced. The beauty of this series was that Terry Goodkind had created a world that was perfect within itself. On top of this his characters were fascinating and the intricate plot he wove was totally gripping. This is the first of the novels that did not live up to the expectations created by the other nine. The magic worked by the `gifted' at times becomes a little too complex and suspiciously close to not conforming to the inner rules of the fantasy world. The intricacies of plot become a little repetitious and we have the notion we have been in the same place before. Fantasy novels almost always portray the fight between `good' and `evil' and at times in previous novels in the series the association of `evil' with a force that seems to represent communism has descended into sermonizing. This is the first novel where that sermonizing seriously detracts from the plot, however. The plot still swept me along (in the second half of the novel anyway - the first half dragged a little) and I am still eager to read the final novel in the series, but I hope that it returns to the standards of the first nine.

Note - be careful of the reviews on this page. It seems that many of them actually relate to 'Naked Empire' or 'Chainfire' and not to 'Phantom'


Temples of Ancient Egypt
Temples of Ancient Egypt
by Byron E. Shafer
Edition: Paperback
Price: 16.55

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful collection of essays, 29 Nov 2007
This is a collection of five essays by scholars which cover the types of Egyptian temples and the rituals associated with them from the Old Kindgom to the Roman period. The level to which the essays are engaging for the average reader varies for individual contributions, though they all contain some interesting ideas. Some of the writers spend a lot of time in detailed descriptions of the layout of temples, which some readers may not find so interesting, but two of the essays in particular contain quite insightful arguments relating to the role of Egyptian temples, their relation to the social and economic hierarchy and the purpose of the rituals associated with them. A picture emerges from the essays of an interdependent religious, political and social order that is nigh on impossible to describe using a modern conceptual framework. Some of the writers skillfully delineate what concepts such as ` royal ka', `maat', chaos etc. may have meant to the people who conceived them. Egyptian religion was a representation of the physical environment that gave birth to it - the power of the cycles of the inundation of the Nile and of the daily rising and setting of the life-giving sun. These cyclical renewals were mirrored in the rituals of the temples and associated festivals and the Pharaoh played a central role in ensuring that the cycles were not interrupted. It is difficult to give star rating. Some of the essays would rate five stars and others three.


The Book Thief
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
Edition: Paperback

207 of 224 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of empathy, 28 Nov 2007
This review is from: The Book Thief (Paperback)
Sometimes a fictional interpretation of history is exactly what we need in order to be able to come to a real understanding of what it meant to live through historic events, particularly horrific ones. Markus Zusak provides us with a masterful interpretation of the Nazi period of German history from the perspective of ordinary people suffering through it and striving to keep their lives together and their souls alive and kicking within the horrific and ever-tightening boundaries constructed by the Nazi regime. He gives us a gut-wrenchingly palpable empathy for people facing harrowing decisions on a daily basis. His marvelous characters bring to life the dilemmas of those who believe they should help the Jews as well as the equally nightmarish predicament of Jews who through receiving help put others in danger. We see much of this through the perspective of the main character Liesel, who is only a young girl. Her innocence and the gradual realizations she comes to about the events swirling around her in a maelstrom of horror evoke a remarkable empathy in the reader. If you want to understand how the little people cope with such tragic historic events without allowing their souls to be crushed, read this book. Ultimately it is a portrait of the resilience and hope of the human spirit.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8