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Doctor Who: The Witch Hunters
Doctor Who: The Witch Hunters
by Steve Lyons
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Wot, no Billy Fluffs...?, 25 Jun 2007
Steve Lyons consistently proves himself one of the best Who authors. The Witch Hunters, as other reviews state, is a note-perfect Hartnell Historical; in fact, the only unconvincing aspect of it is that Hartnell never gets his lines wrong...

It'll seem slow to readers only used to the new series, but it's perfectly in keeping with the more reflective, discursive tone of the Hartnell era. Makes you want to revisit Hartnell era videos - and find out more about the Salem Witch Trials, as `rassybeds' says below. Lyons has clearly researched the era, and the events of Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible', thoroughly - but other strengths of this novel are his neat, lean prose, and highly competent characterisation and plotting.

One of the most subtle, well-written and thoughtful Past Adventures. Just don't expect ray-guns and chases down corridors. 'Chesterfield...!'


Breakfast at Tiffany's (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)
Breakfast at Tiffany's (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)
by Truman Capote
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A captivating character study with prose like champagne, 25 Jun 2007
Breakfast at Tiffany's takes its cue from Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Both are short, beautifully written New York novels in which semi-invisible narrators wrestle with more self-indulgent characters, who take centre stage - and with whom the narrators enjoy ambiguous, shifting relationships.

In fact, the narrator in Breakfast at Tiffany's is so invisible he doesn't even have a name - apart from those the central character, Holly Golightly, gives him. The novel is a hymn to Holly - the narrator desperately wants to understand her, just as Nick Carraway struggles to understand Gatsby. Ultimately, though, hero and narrator are too different, with the heroes in both novels behaving exactly as heroes do: bolder, more inventive and almost certainly less stable than their narrators. Also like Gatsby, Holly Golightly has a hell of a backstory, slowly revealed.

Capote's prose is not dissimilar to Scott Fitzgerald's: poetic, but perhaps a little simpler and with a lighter touch, including some wry humour. Attractively written, it's difficult not to be as spellbound as the narrator is by Holly - however maddening she is. A captivating character study with prose like champagne - classy, and with fizz.


Breakfast at Tiffany's
Breakfast at Tiffany's
by Truman Capote
Edition: Paperback

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A captivating character study with prose like champagne, 25 Jun 2007
This review is from: Breakfast at Tiffany's (Paperback)
Breakfast at Tiffany's takes its cue from Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Both are short, beautifully written New York novels in which semi-invisible narrators wrestle with more self-indulgent characters, who take centre stage - and with whom the narrators enjoy ambiguous, shifting relationships.

In fact, the narrator in Breakfast at Tiffany's is so invisible he doesn't even have a name - apart from those the central character, Holly Golightly, gives him. The novel is a hymn to Holly - the narrator desperately wants to understand her, just as Nick Carraway struggles to understand Gatsby. Ultimately, though, hero and narrator are too different, with the heroes in both novels behaving exactly as heroes do: bolder, more inventive and almost certainly less stable than their narrators. Also like Gatsby, Holly Golightly has a hell of a backstory, slowly revealed.

Capote's prose is not dissimilar to Scott Fitzgerald's: poetic, but perhaps a little simpler and with a lighter touch, including some wry humour. Attractively written, it's difficult not to be as spellbound as the narrator is by Holly - however maddening she is. A captivating character study with prose like champagne - classy, and with fizz.


Breakfast at Tiffany's
Breakfast at Tiffany's
by Truman Capote
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A captivating character study with prose like champagne, 25 Jun 2007
This review is from: Breakfast at Tiffany's (Paperback)
Breakfast at Tiffany's takes its cue from Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Both are short, beautifully written New York novels in which semi-invisible narrators wrestle with more self-indulgent characters, who take centre stage - and with whom the narrators enjoy ambiguous, shifting relationships.

In fact, the narrator in Breakfast at Tiffany's is so invisible he doesn't even have a name - apart from those the central character, Holly Golightly, gives him. The novel is a hymn to Holly - the narrator desperately wants to understand her, just as Nick Carraway struggles to understand Gatsby. Ultimately, though, hero and narrator are too different, with the heroes in both novels behaving exactly as heroes do: bolder, more inventive and almost certainly less stable than their narrators. Also like Gatsby, Holly Golightly has a hell of a backstory, slowly revealed.

Capote's prose is not dissimilar to Scott Fitzgerald's: poetic, but perhaps a little simpler and with a lighter touch, including some wry humour. Attractively written, it's difficult not to be as spellbound as the narrator is by Holly - however maddening she is. A captivating character study with prose like champagne - classy, and with fizz.


The Great Gatsby (Penguin Popular Classics)
The Great Gatsby (Penguin Popular Classics)
by F Scott Fitzgerald
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical in a less than lyrical century, 25 Jun 2007
Nobody writes prose like F Scott Fitzgerald. Lyrical in a less than lyrical century, Scott Fitzgerald tends to be pigeonholed as the most prominent commentator on the Jazz Age, that brief hurrah after the guns fell silent but before the Wall Street Crash. But the sheer precision and elegance of his writing has a timeless quality which deserves greater attention, and his preoccupations in The Great Gatsby - wrecked love, the nature of America - are hardly themes exclusive to the 1920s.

For my money, The Great Gatsby is one of the most successful and rewarding novels of the twentieth century. The Penguin blurb suggesting he was `something of a seer' diminishes with its vague mysticism Scott Fitzgerald's complete grasp of his craft. For instance, The Great Gatsby is cleverly structured; its subject, who dominates the narrative, only appears for the first time 50 pages in (the novel's less than 200 pages all told) - Scott Fitzgerald knows how to hold back, build suspense and carefully pace his story. The shocking ending, when it comes, is also somehow inevitable - it's been lovingly prepared for, for Scott Fitzgerald is a good professional storyteller as much as a spellbinding writer of prose.

And it's probably the prose itself that most captivates. Scott Fitzgerald simply puts words together beautifully - in an unexpected, highly articulate way. He favours double barrelled adjectives, often choosing contradictions that make sense despite themselves: `his gorgeous pink rag of a suit'; `she spoke to her husband in a soft, coarse voice'. Occasionally he wants to fit so much in, or read so much into a situation or character, that he's just a little too intense to convince - but the occasional excess of imagination is a pretty bearable flaw in an author. The characterisation is thoughtfully worked too - even minor characters are vivid.

Last but not least, the novel has profound things to say about America - then and now. Such as what success or integrity means, how to achieve those things and how society regards each of them; the Big Brother of commerce, in the form of the eyes of Doctor TJ Eckleburg; and the different cultures in the US, most particularly those from the MidWest versus `Easterners'.

Readers may get something out of following The Great Gatsby with Breakfast at Tiffany's - another short, beautifully written New York novel with a beguiling central character.


The Great Gatsby (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Great Gatsby (Penguin Modern Classics)
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.60

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical in a less than lyrical century, 25 Jun 2007
Nobody writes prose like F Scott Fitzgerald. Lyrical in a less than lyrical century, Scott Fitzgerald tends to be pigeonholed as the most prominent commentator on the Jazz Age, that brief hurrah after the guns fell silent but before the Wall Street Crash. But the sheer precision and elegance of his writing has a timeless quality which deserves greater attention, and his preoccupations in The Great Gatsby - wrecked love, the nature of America - are hardly themes exclusive to the 1920s.

For my money, The Great Gatsby is one of the most successful and rewarding novels of the twentieth century. The Penguin blurb suggesting he was `something of a seer' diminishes with its vague mysticism Scott Fitzgerald's complete grasp of his craft. For instance, The Great Gatsby is cleverly structured; its subject, who dominates the narrative, only appears for the first time 50 pages in (the novel's less than 200 pages all told) - Scott Fitzgerald knows how to hold back, build suspense and carefully pace his story. The shocking ending, when it comes, is also somehow inevitable - it's been lovingly prepared for, for Scott Fitzgerald is a good professional storyteller as much as a spellbinding writer of prose.

And it's probably the prose itself that most captivates. Scott Fitzgerald simply puts words together beautifully - in an unexpected, highly articulate way. He favours double barrelled adjectives, often choosing contradictions that make sense despite themselves: `his gorgeous pink rag of a suit'; `she spoke to her husband in a soft, coarse voice'. Occasionally he wants to fit so much in, or read so much into a situation or character, that he's just a little too intense to convince - but the occasional excess of imagination is a pretty bearable flaw in an author. The characterisation is thoughtfully worked too - even minor characters are vivid.

Last but not least, the novel has profound things to say about America - then and now. Such as what success or integrity means, how to achieve those things and how society regards each of them; the Big Brother of commerce, in the form of the eyes of Doctor TJ Eckleburg; and the different cultures in the US, most particularly those from the MidWest versus `Easterners'.

Readers may get something out of following The Great Gatsby with Breakfast at Tiffany's - another short, beautifully written New York novel with a beguiling central character.


In the Place of Fallen Leaves
In the Place of Fallen Leaves
by Tim Pears
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful stuff, 11 Jun 2007
Nothing happens in this novel; but it happens beautifully. Populated with eccentrics, and sweltering in the hot summer of 1984 - when the teachers in Alison's school go on strike for weeks - this is a very English take on magic realism; understated, with shifts of understanding and gradual changes rather than sudden drama. At first, it reads like another of those 'coming of age' novels that revolve around some shocking revelation or terrible incident. But the deeper into the novel you go, you realise there probably isn't anything quite so crass as its centre. Instead, there's some really fine lyrical prose, driven by strange, but strangely believable characters, and with a pungent sense of place.

Despite discernible influences such as Marquez, and highly familiar aspects (hot English summer; young girl wrestling with adolescence), there's nothing else quite like this highly original and beautifully written novel. If this had been published in 1984 instead of set then, Channel Four would have made an affecting, offbeat drama out of it. As it is, we'll have to make do with Pears' stunning prose.


The Lion and the Unicorn: Gladstone Vs Disraeli
The Lion and the Unicorn: Gladstone Vs Disraeli
by Richard Aldous
Edition: Hardcover

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The dandy and the demagogue, 10 Mar 2007
Great rivalries always fascinate. And great rivalries up and down the greasy pole of politics are always going to have verve and drama in the hands of a good narrative writer.

And Richard Aldous is certainly that. This sympathetic, wry account of how two absolute opposites - culturally and psychologically as well as politically - smashed into each other as the British Empire reached its apogee hurtles along at a fantastic pace. The drama's driven not only by the characters but by the pendulum of power constantly swinging between them so that when Disraeli's stock is high, Gladstone's is inevitably low; and vice versa. This is history which, in Alan Bennett's phrase, is very much `just one thing after another', and the pace never slacks. Disraeli and Gladstone loathed each other in an age when that didn't necessarily follow, in politics; but it was also an age in which the idea of a `party machine' emerged, the Liberals coalesced into form and the Conservatives redefined themselves not once, but twice. The political landscape suffered tremors; Gladstone and Disraeli rode the unrest (and sometimes caused it), flinging rocks at each other whilst fighting to stay on their feet.

True, sometimes the reader might wish for a little more background colour - some more detail in the prose, or a greater sense of context. But this - and the anticipation that a smattering of typos will be corrected in the paperback - is small beer. In fact, `The Lion and the Unicorn' wouldn't be the book it is if it were slower - and as it is, it's unputdownable.

Firmly recommended. Great fun.


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