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Slow Lorris

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Members Large Satchel Shoulder Bag in Black (SB-0020)
Members Large Satchel Shoulder Bag in Black (SB-0020)

4.0 out of 5 stars Depends what you need it for, 19 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
You get what you pay for with this bag - and in my case that is good enough. I wanted a briefcase-type bag (I don't use the shoulder strap) that I could bash around without worrying about ruining an expensive item. For instance, I frequently hang it from a handlebar of my bike. I've owned several identical bags over the years and they've all lasted two or three years. That's fine as far as I'm concerned but I do have a longer lasting leather alternative for when I need something smarter.


The Little Wonder: The Remarkable History of Wisden
The Little Wonder: The Remarkable History of Wisden
by Robert Winder
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A curate's egg, 5 May 2014
It's interesting that four of the seven reviews already here are written by people who gave the book as a present. Perhaps those who received it share my frustrations with it. The book is clearly the product of enormous research and is full of interesting information and interesting sections, but overall I thought it missed its mark as a history of Wisden and also found it a real hard slog to reach the end.

At 400 pages it feels very flabby. The author has a habit of writing twenty words where ten would do, and tends not to draw the boundaries of his story sufficiently tightly often straying into a general account of some cricket issue or another rather than confining himself to how Wisden covered it. Perhaps a limit of 300 pages would have focused everyone's attention on how the story should be told and forced some tough decisions.

On p.315 the author confesses that his account is guilty "for storytelling reasons" of emphasising the role of Wisden's editors over the editorial support staff. I thought this was quite an admission in a book that claims to be history and wondered what other topics had the same treatment. It certainly doesn't feel like a definitive account, being unreferenced and a little shaky when it ventures beyond cricket into the general historical or publishing backgrounds, but that may not have been the intention anyway.

Above all I wish the author had resisted the temptation to sound funny or clever. It's a while since I've read a book where I was so aware of the author's voice interjecting between me and the story. The humour often feels forced and the erudition misplaced. For me at least, the reference to a Luis Borges short story (p391), a Lytton Strachey anecdote (p.349), and the "paradigms" and "dichotomies" on p.254 were just too much, and if it really is necessary to use Festschrift in a cricket book (p.120) someone should have checked its meaning (and how it differs from Gedenkschrift).

Having said all that, the book does contain a vast amount of interesting information about the history of Wisden. I suspect the way to enjoy it best is by dipping in and out of individual sections, perhaps reading twenty pages or so at a time.


The Fateful Year: England 1914
The Fateful Year: England 1914
by Mark Bostridge
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.95

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A collage that comes together to present a convincing overall picture, 12 Mar. 2014
I was in two minds about this book as I read through. Its cherry picking approach, tackling specific episodes and themes in 1914 England to the exclusion of others, at times felt rather fragmented. But this tight focus on only particular topics has its own strengths, allowing more colourful period detail to come through than might be the case in a more sweeping study. By the end everything seemed to have slipped into place and the book felt much more than the sum of its parts. The advent of war halfway through perhaps helped by providing a natural focus.

I thought a great strength was how the author let the voices of individual people shine through, quoting extensively from letters and diaries up and down the social scale. You get a real feel for real people's opinions and uncertainties as the year unfolded.


Gone Girl
Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too obviously a carefully constructed thriller, 18 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Gone Girl (Paperback)
I can see why people might love this book - as psychological thrillers go it's pretty well done. But for me it didn't work well. Partly because I never found myself really caring about either of the two main characters. But mainly because the narrative devices the author deploys to tell her story stick out so clearly that I soon found myself reading to discover how she was going to tell the story rather than for the story itself. And the ending was a huge disappointment, as many here have commented. I guess it's mostly about suspension of disbelief. Once mine went, I found myself picking holes in all sorts of aspects of the plot I might otherwise have sped past.


Mitterrand: A Study in Ambiguity
Mitterrand: A Study in Ambiguity
by Philip Short
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £26.95

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive biography - and a very good read, 17 Jan. 2014
This really is exceptionally well done. I had been intrigued by several good newspaper reviews but am no expert on French politics, so the question for me was: could an intelligent, general reader with no background in the subject tackle what is a massive 600 page biography? I'm pleased to say the answer is a resounding "yes". Philip Short writes very fluently, which carried me through the more challenging passages, and has a good eye for anecdote and pacing a story. The book begins with an account of the Observatory Affair, an apparent assassination attempt on Mitterrand on the streets of Paris, and after that I was gripped.
I don't know how this biography fits into the vast French scholarship on Mitterrand but there is very little of any substance published about him in English. So it is very welcome. It feels a very fair account and the author has persuaded several new sources to talk.
Be warned, though, that it is very detailed, chock-full of minor French political figures and, seemingly, an acronym on every page (there's a helpful glossary of these at the back). After making slow initial progress, I decided to stop looking-up people and acronyms, and instead put my head down and kept reading. That worked well for me as a strategy so might be worth bearing in mind if you pick up the book. Which you certainly should.


Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain
Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain
by Charlotte Higgins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.95

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly different - shame about the pics, 6 Dec. 2013
A lot of the reviews here seem to miss the point of this book. What it's basically trying to do is examine how people down the centuries have thought about Roman Britain. It does this via the author's journey round a series of Roman British sites, using this sequence of places as a framework to hold together a really diverse selection of material.

There's a fair amount of Roman history - a chronological account of Roman Britain is loosely woven through the chapters - and a fair amount about the sites themselves. But the bulk of the book looks at the widely differing perspectives people have had on the Roman past.

Does that sound a little dry and academic? Well, fortunately it isn't, because the author is a journalist with a nicely readable style, and because she lets the book flow in a delightfully anecdotal way. One thing leads to another... and another... and then another. It all seems a little artless but of course is exactly the opposite. You meet the WW1 poet Wilfred Owen digging at Wroxeter, you meet B&B owners along Hadrian's Wall, you meet the 18th Century antiquarian William Stukeley in all his Druidic craziness, you meet the historian RG Collingwood writing furiously when he knew his time was short, you meet latterday statues of Boudicca dotted here and there round the country. And so on.

At times the book frustrated me as it moved on just as I wanted to know more about the person in focus. But that is hardly a criticism. This is an enjoyable and deceptively thoughtful book I shall definitely return to.

But, but, but... it is simply crying out for better images. What you get are a series of small, rather grainy black and white photos in the body of the text. I know publishing economics probably played a part here but the omission of colour photography borders on the criminal. I nearly threw the book across the room when faced with the horrid smudge of a photo accompanying the account of a truly spectacular bronze cavalry helmet. This is the only reason this isn't a five star review.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 6, 2013 1:43 PM GMT


Wild Tales
Wild Tales
by Graham Nash
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Straightforward account of some crazy times, 21 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Wild Tales (Hardcover)
I enjoyed this book. I'm no expert on CSNY - I've played "So Far" in the car for years but didn't know much about the band's history or Graham Nash's time with the Hollies and certainly haven't read any other books about them - but from that perspective the book was ideal. A chronological narrative of Nash's life told in a straightforward style and pleasant tone.

Detail of Nash's poor background in Salford was especially interesting, and in many ways his life reflects the opening up of opportunities in the post-war world. And his really quite sudden transformation from happy-go-lucky Lancashire lad with the Hollies to West Coast hippy with CSNY epitomises the shock of the 1960s.

I did find the book a little unreflective and Nash perhaps just a little too pleased with himself and emotionally unengaged. Surely, for example, there's more to be said about free love and the vast amount of drugs consumed than the rather stock attitudes here. David Crosby's decent into drug hell is catalogued in some detail but I found it an oddly matter-of-fact account from someone claiming to be a dear friend. So I wouldn't look at this book for blazing new insights into what happened - but it's certainly a very capable account of what did.


As Luck Would Have It
As Luck Would Have It
by Derek Jacobi
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant enough - but factual errors, 7 Oct. 2013
This review is from: As Luck Would Have It (Hardcover)
This was a pleasant quick read and Derek Jacobi emerges as a nice man (as you probably do from autobiography). But I was left with some serious doubts about the book.

First, it really does need an index. Surely part of the pleasure of theatrical memoirs is to be able to look up what the author says about his various contemporaries.

Secondly, there seems a worrying level of factual error. At least in the areas of Jacobi's life I'm familiar with. On just the first page of his account of student life at Cambridge, he begins by describing St. John's (his college) as the "third on the left down King's Parade after King's, Clare's and Trinity". Well... that would make it the fourth on the left, "Clare's" College is spelt "Clare" College, and neither Clare nor Trinity is actually on King's Parade (and nor is St John's for that matter). Immediately afterwards he mentions the beautiful St John's College chapel built by the college founder Lady Margaret Beaufort. But it wasn't - it's a nineteenth century building more than 400 years later than Beaufort. And Beaufort was John of Gaunt's great grand-daughter not, as the book would have it, his daughter.

On the same page Magdalene Bridge is spelt Magdalen Bridge, which is in Oxford. And a few pages earlier he tells us about his college admissions interview with a Fellow called Harry Hinsley who he describes, on several occasions, as The Master. But Hinsley wasn't Master of the College until twenty years later.

On one level this is of course nit-picking. But it did make me wonder about the rest of book. I'm not very familiar with the theatrical world, so how far could I trust what I was reading elsewhere? Perhaps it doesn't matter too much in a cosy memoir such as this, but if these "as told to" books aren't adequately copy-edited and fact-checked they can come across as shoddy, produced on the cheap efforts that reflect very poorly on the author. Derek Jacobi deserves better.


The Plan: How Fletcher and Flower Transformed English Cricket
The Plan: How Fletcher and Flower Transformed English Cricket
by Steve James
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Heavyweight analysis, readable style, 3 Oct. 2013
I was really impressed by this book. It's never easy to make sense of contemporary history, but Steve James does a really good job taking readers through the last fifteen years in English Test cricket while at the same time standing back and analysing the management regimes of Duncan Fletcher and Andy Flower. There are some books that can be described as the "first draft of history" and I think this is one of them.

It is essentially a book about what went on behind the scenes. The strategic, tactical and man management approaches of the two coaches, the similarities and differences in their backgrounds in Zimbabwe and how these influenced their coaching, the relationships between the two coaches and their various captains, the evolution of English cricket administration since the 1990s, new approaches to player development and performance analysis, and so on. As such it is full of detail I'd never come across before despite following Test cricket fairly closely.

Steve James is particularly well equipped to write this book as he knows the two England coaches better than most. Fletcher was his county coach at Glamorgan, while as a young pro he spent several winters in Zimbabwe playing cricket alongside Flower. I've heard it said that these relationships make him insufficiently critical of Fletcher or Flower, but while the book is certainly "pro" both men it is a very nuanced account and I didn't find this an obvious problem. Highly recommended.


Fibber in the Heat
Fibber in the Heat
by Miles Jupp
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than I expected, 3 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Fibber in the Heat (Paperback)
I was a little wary of this book as the whole "blagging a press pass" set-up seemed rather artificial. But I really enjoyed it and laughed out loud in several places. Miles Jupp tells a good story, as you might expect from a stand-up comedian, and is an amusing innocent abroad in the world of sporting journalism, although I did find him implausibly naive about what the day-to-day life of a cricket journalist would involve.

Cricket fans may be intrigued to discover which cricket journalists were friendly towards a newbie on tour and which were beastly to him (the beastly ones are anonymised but I reckon I identified a couple of them). Sadly missing is anything about which journalists rumbled Miles's masquerade. It would have made an entertaining epilogue.


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