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Martin White (London, UK)

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Barchester Towers (Penguin Classics)
Barchester Towers (Penguin Classics)
by Anthony Trollope
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Comical and astute chronicler of his times, 10 Jan 2010
The second of Trollope's Barsetshire novels, following 'The Warden,' both familiar from the excellent TV dramatisation of the 1980s. It is a good read for he was a comical, and astute, chronicler of his times, aware of political and religious debate and perceptive of social mores and the subtle distinctions of status indicated through behaviour. Also I think his psychological portrayal of character is complex and profound despite his not having access to the Freudian armoury of later times.

The writing employs the elaborate sentence structure of the day but it is clear, absolutely to the point and easy to read. Trollope wrote 54 novels in 36 years, many works of biography and criticism and numerous articles for periodicals. The man was a veritable word machine.


Embers
Embers
by Sandor Marai
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strangely compelling, 10 Jan 2010
This review is from: Embers (Paperback)
A strangely compelling novel and beautifully written. Two old men meet decades after a catastrophe destroyed their special relationship. A final reckoning beckons or, rather, a final understanding of the implications of what happened all that time ago. What's it all about? Friendship, loyalty, love, possession, duty, the meaning of life even .....


Bread And Ashes: A Walk Through the Mountains of Georgia
Bread And Ashes: A Walk Through the Mountains of Georgia
by Tony Anderson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.39

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Revealing journey in the Caucasus, 9 Jan 2010
This travel book is packed with fascinating stuff about the myriad communities, languages and ethnic groups of Georgia. Its geographical, cultural and historical range is immense. The mass of anthropological and historical detail is carried by, and linked to, Anderson's interesting and sometimes funny anecdotal account of the journey itself. It leaves you wanting a more organised and summative account of the region though that maybe wasn't the book's intention.


The England Football Miscellany (World Cup 2006)
The England Football Miscellany (World Cup 2006)
by John D. T. White
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.68

2.0 out of 5 stars Poor production with significant omissions, 8 Jan 2010
Published to take advantage of 2006's world cup, a collection of statistics, facts and anecdotes about England's football team over the 120+ years of its existence. Obviously better on the most recent stuff, it also includes items from the earliest days while virtually ignoring the 1920s and 1930s for some reason, apart from the Battle of Highbury. Slipshod typographical errors.


Liberalism and Democracy (Radical Thinkers)
Liberalism and Democracy (Radical Thinkers)
by Norberto Bobbio
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clarity in the analysis of a difficult subject, 8 Jan 2010
A complex yet succinct analysis of two philosophies, their interrelationships, their interactions with other perspectives and how they've changed in different circumstances. A work of political philosophy which takes for granted (rather than ignores) the social class aspect of ideology and history. Very interesting, especially the clear linkage between democracy and the maximal state and its corollary the antagonism between liberalism and, for example, universal suffrage.


Moorish Spain
Moorish Spain
by Richard Fletcher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A clear and comprehensive account of a unique civilisation, 8 Jan 2010
This review is from: Moorish Spain (Paperback)
An interesting account that goes through the various stages - invasion, the Caliphate of Cordoba, dissolution into statelets, developing Christian encroachment, the Almoravid and Almohad invasions and the eventual conquest of al-Andalus by the kingdoms of Portugal, Castilla-Leon and Aragon, leaving the rump of Nasrid Granada to last out until 1492. Fletcher is good on cultural interface and the influence on Europe of philosophy and science conduited through Islamic Spain.


Philip Guston Retrospective
Philip Guston Retrospective
by Michael Auping
Edition: Paperback

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview of a really interesting painter, 7 Jan 2010
The book of the Guston exhibition at the Royal Academy in 2004. I'd never heard of Guston but he's really interesting, developing from standard modernism through abstract expressionism to the cartoonish later years. Yet even the abstract paintings (wonderful colours) have faint figurative glimmerings and the hooded figures of his last period are as non-representational as you can get. Informative text.


The Athenian Murders
The Athenian Murders
by Jose Carlos Somoza
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.30

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Postmodern classical, 6 Jan 2010
This review is from: The Athenian Murders (Paperback)
This book received the 2002 Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger Award but it is unfortunate it has been so pigeonholed since it is actually a postmodern tour de force and the actual outcome of the investigations of the Decipherer of Enigmas is virtually incidental. Set in post-Peloponnesian War Athens, it deals in the mystery cults that operated independently of the Olympian state religion, Plato's Theory of Ideas and Five Elements of Knowledge, translation, authorship, the actual process of writing, truth - a wallowing in self-reference. Quite extraordinary and very entertaining.


Ali And Nino: A Love Story
Ali And Nino: A Love Story
by Kurban Said
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book of unusual provenance, 5 Jan 2010
Set mainly in the cosmopolitan city of Baku in Azerbaijan in the first two decades of the twentieth century, but also in the broader setting of the Caucasus (Armenia, Karabakh, Dagestan, Georgia) and Iran, this is a love story contexted at the interface of modernity and tradition, Europe and Asia, Christianity and Islam. Ali, an Azeri Muslim, and Nino, a Georgian Christian, know each other from childhood and marry across the cultural divide. During the events of the First World War (which here means Tsarist Russia vs Ottoman Turkey) and its aftermath, the relationship is continually pulled one way or the other. In the end Nino flees with their child to Tiflis (Tbilisi) as Russian Bolsheviks occupy a briefly independent Azerbaijan and Ali dies defending it.

A romantic and affecting book, I'm not quite sure whether or not the author perhaps eventually comes down on the side of tradition and Islam but nonetheless he is as clear-eyed about it as he is about European modernity. Sometimes a little dichotomous, there are nevertheless fascinating evocations of the different cultures in the description of ritual and everyday behaviour and in the dialogue. And the book, first published in 1937, certainly resonates today. Extraordinarily it seems that the author was Lev Nussimbaum, a Jew who converted to Islam and left Azerbaijan at the time of the Russian Revolution for Germany and then Austria and Italy where he died in 1942. There is no trace here, though, of the Jewish people of the Caucasus.


Twenties London: A City in the Jazz Age
Twenties London: A City in the Jazz Age
by Cathy Ross
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good for the pictures, 5 Jan 2010
I saw the interesting exhibition at the Museum of London of which this is the book. It usefully highlights aspects of the era, especially the architecture; a strange selection of topics though, especially the focus on Kibbo Kift, pretty insignificant for London albeit an interesting oddity about which I knew nothing. Great illustrations, poor proofreading and at least one error of fact - the year of Sidney Bechet's death.


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