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Auberon Quin (London)

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The Vanishing Game
The Vanishing Game
Price: £0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Page turner, 18 Jun. 2015
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I know this was commissioned by Landrover and the vehicle features throughout a gripping page turner of a tale that makes you want to miss sleep and food to finish. Sadly it's only short but well worth the time.
One wonders how Boyd will unravel all the tantalising threads he weaves throughout but the finale is something of an anticlimax and leaves many questions unanswered. Maybe that was the intent but it did rather cry out for a more satisfying solution.
Nonetheless, Boyd is a great writer who can do little wrong in my eyes, so it's five stars all the same!


The Windsor Faction
The Windsor Faction
Price: £4.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not much happened on the way to the Palace, 4 Nov. 2013
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Do not be deceived. Whilst the title might presage the latest Robert Ludlam or Len Deighton, The Windsor Faction is nothing of the kind. For this is no thriller. DJ Taylor's latest novel enters the intricate genre of alternate history. Neither should one be intimidated by the sinister cover design of the swastika and eagle dominating a murky silhouette of the London skyline. There are essential elements in this `what-if' Second World War tale that guides us through an alternate Sliding Doors reality in which the inconvenient interloper and captor of Edward VIII's heart, Wallis Simpson, had - Diana-like - conveniently died before the outbreak of hostilities, leaving the now unabdicated anti-war king on the throne to help the processes of appeasement.

Mr Taylor avoids the most obvious risk of such a tale - namely of having the new fictitious Establishment become a polar opposite - a violently pro-Nazi fascist state - for this is no black-and-white, yes-or-no relocation of the sands of history but more of a subtle journey through varying shades of grey. Emphases are delicately shifted, nuances of outlook gently nudge the course of events along a parallel, but not diametrically opposed path. Nonetheless, the subject is not a new one for literature or film alike: one is reminded a little of The Remains of the Day and, more recently, the 2009 film Glorious 39, although this book has at its core more of the former's subdued interplay of the characters rather than the overt drama of the latter.

We follow the fortunes of Cynthia, daughter of the solid middle class Kirkpatricks recently returned to England from Ceylon, who works at the newly created literary magazine Duration, run by the wealthy and well-connected Peter Wildgoose; we meet Rodney, a seedy young man (not unlike James Ross in Taylor's previous two novels) who ostensibly works in a Deaconesque antique shop but also runs mysterious errands for the American cypher clerk, Tyler Kent. In each of the three parts of the book we are introduced to Beverley Nichols - a well-connected homosexual journalist and based on the real life figure - through his incisive staccato diary entries as he is enlisted to help the King write his Christmas speech - these entries being by far the most compelling parts of the narrative.

There are several subplots that, it transpires, seem to serve little purpose other than to highlight a particular aspect of a character. For instance, Rodney's affair with the wife of the proprietor of the antique shop leads nowhere - indeed both characters treat their liaisons with a dismissive carelessness that suggests they know it does not matter. Cynthia's Belgravia flatmate, Lucy, acquires no role whatever for herself in the book's events. By contrast, Anthea, second cousin to the Prime Minister and a sort of even more upmarket Tuffy Weedon, is constantly in evidence but ultimately appears to be there for no other reason than to send Cynthia on her ill-fated mission towards the end.

The story drifts from Ceylon to England and into a cycle of country house parties, clubs and residences in London, and to the offices of Duration. It is however not until the King, aided and advised by Beverley Nichols and to the horror of his aides, delivers his duplicitous pro-peace Christmas speech that events gather pace, as though the `in limbo' lives of the characters in the Phoney War were waiting for a catalyst to galvanise them into pushing the plot forward. Clandestine meetings with the politically uncertain king and the various persons who wish either to help or use him, are arranged but this is the last we see of Edward VIII. There is a tactical mugging by one side, and an attempt is made to steal a book listing all the supporters of the pro-peace and somewhat anti-Semitic Windsor Faction by the other. After this, the plot gears up towards its climax. The lacklustre Cynthia returns to the centre of proceedings and experiences her own personal phoney war in the midst of some action before events reach an unexpectedly explosive conclusion.

It is however rather late in the book that this flurry of espionage-related activity rears its head and, although one is grateful that the seemingly directionless gatherings of different permutations of characters has crystallised into substance, this unexpected jolt from the narrative of the grey monotony of the early days of the war jars a little. Perhaps indeed that was Mr Taylor's intent. Nevertheless, the concluding scenes, for all the build up, tend to feel more like an episode of a very attenuated Modesty Blaise trying to outwit an exceptionally inept Bond villain and so the denouement, when it comes, neither startles nor shocks.

At the same time as this finale comes the German assault on the Maginot Line and histories realigns themselves. We realise that our journey into speculation is over and has lasted little more than six months during which, subversive mutterings from Fifth Columnists and appeasniks aside, nothing new has happened apart from a tactically ill-advised speech from the King. The Windsor Faction is disbanded - interned or worse - and the machinery of war rumbles on.

Mr Taylor is a dyed-in-the-wool Powellian, and there are multiple references that recall Powell and The Dance - by coincidence or design one is never quite sure - mostly during the first half of the novel. Thus, amidst the narrative, one glimpses the memory of a young man having sugar poured over his head at a dance; sees Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy being read incongruously by a character; catches passing mention of the Maida Vale canal and Gainsborough; comes across an anti-war pamphlet called War Never Pays; one even reads a chapter titled `From a View to a Death'. There is something of the ghost of Trapnel hanging in invisible wreaths around the talented yet down-at-heel, advance-scrounging writer Sylvester Del Mar. Desmond's desperation to have parties and his bemoaning their scarcity even in wartime has strong echoes of Dickie Umfraville's similar gripe at Foppa's. There is even a little sideswipe at Evelyn Waugh for good measure. And all throughout, as though in homage to MacClintick, bobs up again and again what appears to be Mr Taylor's favourite word - `counterpoint'.

For a professionally edited and produced book there are a surprising number of typographical errors, some of which even break the flow and cause one to have to read the relevant sentence again to make sense of the narrative. And even during the Second World War set in an alternate version of history, the Houses of Parliament would not have been situated in Westminster Square.

Whilst there are some flashes of originality and compelling passages, especially in Nichols' diary, the whole is something of a disappointment and the majority of the prose is turgid. It neither delivers a startling or thought-provoking alternative outcome to the war, nor provides characters that will long linger in the memory, nor yet give an events-packed romp through 1939-40 Britain. The few twists are visible from far off. 'Derby Day' this is not.

'The King's Speech' might have been a better title - but of course that had already been taken.


Mr Standfast [LegacyTitleID: 573648]
Mr Standfast [LegacyTitleID: 573648]

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Buchan, brilliantly read, 10 Aug. 2013
In my opinion the best of the Hannay novels, sweeping through Europe from small town middle England to Glasgow, Skye, London, northern France, Switzerland, Italy and a denouement back in northern France with a heart-renching ending, this text is made all the more enthralling by Fredrick Davidson's superlative rendition. It seems he was born to read this book, his every nuance fitting perfectly with Hannay's rainbow palette of moods.
One not to miss.


The Napoleon of Notting Hill
The Napoleon of Notting Hill
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of his most under-rated works, 29 May 2013
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Many people will be familiar with he Father Brown stories but Chesterton wrote so much more. This book follows the development of a practical joke devised by England's randomly elected king - a man who acknowledges only humour - when it collides with a serious idealist, who has taken the idea wholly to heart.
As always with GKC, moral messages overflow from every page but the action rolls along, includes a couple of battles ands with the two men realising that they are but two sides of the same coin.


The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within
The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within
Price: £4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unlocking poetry, 17 April 2013
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Fabulous introduction to the art of poetry. I bought this at the same time as I was studying poetry as an undergraduate and this easily outdid any course books we had! That said, it is a pleasure to read and not at all academically minded even though you learn masses.
Whether you are studying poetry, want to write it or just want to know more about its form, then this is the book for you. Mr Fry extends his genius into teaching us lesser mortals yet another topic!
It's so good, one can forgive him even the occasional tiny condescension - he's earned it!


Philip Mercier Men's Watch With Date- SML04/C
Philip Mercier Men's Watch With Date- SML04/C
Price: £12.52

5.0 out of 5 stars Who needs a Rolex?, 17 April 2013
You couldn't gripe if a £12 watch went a bit wrong and failed after a few months but this one is the most reliable timepiece I have ever owned! I change the time only when the clocks go back or forward, I've needed to change the battery once in four years, the dial and hands are clear to see even in poor light and though I bought it as a watch for work where I often have to take it off and might lose it, etc, it is now my constant companion.
(And if you say "it's a Philip Mercier" with enough awe and sincerity, most people will look impressed.)
There's no down side to this one!


Diavolino
Diavolino

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A night's sleep gladly missed, 13 July 2011
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This review is from: Diavolino (Kindle Edition)
A compulsive page-turner from start to finish.

If you haven't yet, read it now. You'll miss a night's sleep in getting to the end but it is so worthwhile.

The story of the dark secret of an island in an Italian lake, hidden by the locals and forced into the open with the arrival of Tom and his family starts a series of increasingly horrific events. Steve Emmett knows how to keep you hooked and paces the narrative beautifully. The authenticity of someone who has lived in Italy and understands her ways also shines through.

Amongst the roller coaster plot twists are numerous nuggets of cryingly beautiful similies and phrases that show that he is more than just another Dan Brown but a writer of the very highest quality.

Buy it, read it - or you will have lost something.

I doubt though, that it will be eulogised by the Italian Tourist Board.... Umbria: the gateway to hell.....


Integral 512MB I-PEN Pen Drive - USB Memory
Integral 512MB I-PEN Pen Drive - USB Memory

5.0 out of 5 stars Ronseal Wodstain, 31 May 2009
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It's a 512MB USB stick.
It's exactly what is says on the tin.
Oh - and it works.


CMFUSBHC-64GB Flash Voyager USB Drive
CMFUSBHC-64GB Flash Voyager USB Drive

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The technology is not yet there, 16 April 2009
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Sadly after filling just 4 of the 64GB with photos it crashed both my Mac and my Windows laptop (not easy to do).
I think the technology is not yet there to have this much memory in a stick. Keep to the 8GB version.
Overall it would have been an expensive waste of money had it not been for Amazon's truly superb refund and return policy.


Reef
Reef
by Romesh Gunesekera
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intellectual and gustatory tastebuds' delight, 9 May 2001
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This review is from: Reef (Paperback)
This story of a Sri Lankan houseboy (Triton) and his coming of age in the household of the pensive Mr Salgado, concerned only with the destruction of the coastal reef and the delightful Miss Nili, is one of the 90's best works. The numerous descriptions of Triton's culinary creations balance the equally sensual evocation of the island and its politics. A must for anyone, chef or student of the human condition.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 11, 2012 2:43 PM GMT


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