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Rf And Tm Walters "rtwalters" (London)

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Forgotten Victory: The First World War: Myths and Realities
Forgotten Victory: The First World War: Myths and Realities
by G. D. Sheffield
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought, 25 Feb 2012
This is a series of essays on controversies surrounding the First World War. It is well written and balanced and gives plenty of food for thought.
I thought the essays on the origins of the War and the aftermath show great historical perspective. It is shown that Britain did not have much alternative but to go in. Sheffield is also good on the American perspective and appreciates Wilson's contribution. The author is also good at demolishing some myths that have developed from the war being viewed through literary eyes.
It is more difficult to justify the British generals but with some reservations he finds that they got there in the end. The Somme with some reservations was in the end a victory for British troops albeit at a price.
The big point that is made well is that the BEF faced the full might of the German army in March 1918and though they buckled they did not break. They then counterattacked and defeated the German army. This could not be done if the army had been badly led. The courage of the ordinary soldier would not have been enough. Compare the fate of the Russian army in the same war.
The books helps demonstrate how these successes came about. One conclusion is that you cannot have war without casualty
The book is not a chronicle of events, one needs say Keegan's book for that.
Strongly recommended.

The Patience of the Spider (Inspector Montalbano Mysteries)
The Patience of the Spider (Inspector Montalbano Mysteries)
by Andrea Camilleri
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Maigret in Sicily, 20 Feb 2012
More than the other books in this series one sees the influence of Simenon's Inspector Maigret. Even Livia seems rather subdued and like the French inspector's wife. One of Simenon's books is even mentioned.

This makes for a good novel concentrating on a character driven plot. There is also the familiar concentration on food together with a portrait of a tense tight family group faced with a kidnapping. In the end Montalbano is also paternal and avuncular and does the right thing. Very readable and excellently translated like the rest of this series.

The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda's Road to 9/11
The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda's Road to 9/11
by Lawrence Wright
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 9/11 Background, 7 Feb 2012
This is a useful book that tells the story of Al Quaeda from its ideological beginnings in Egypt some 70 years ago. It also tells the Saudi background. This is very good but it becomes more difficult and detailed with more recent events.

The book is well written and has some 80 pages of notes which give the book its authority. The terrorists seem totally deluded but the book is good at demonstrating how they arrived at their peculiar viewpoint and how , by luck and poor work by the various intelligence services their view gave birth to a spectacular terror incident. It also shows that the US reaction whilst understandable was blunt and ham fisted.

I hope that Wright gives us a sequel about the events following 9/11

Price: 2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars An easy read, 21 Jan 2012
This review is from: Sail (Kindle Edition)
An easy read. Short paragraphs and chapters. The characters are not fantastically well developed but the plot carries the book along. This is rather like a movie that one comes across on daytime tv, quite fun but not memorable. The book tries to surprise you with revelations. Well some of these do surprise others don't. The writing is quite basic. It makes Stephen King or Robert Crais seem like Shakespeare.

Back from the Brink: 1,000 Days at Number 11
Back from the Brink: 1,000 Days at Number 11
by Alistair Darling
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Steady as she goes, 12 Jan 2012
This account of Darling's time as Chancellor has the virtue of being comparatively short and well written.

Darling is a level headed witness to the last three years or so of the Labour government which included the banking crisis, the recession and the implosion of the government. He does take time to point out the inconsistencies and unworldliness of the opposition who dreamed it was 1979 again. He also has some interesting sidelines on Blair and Brown.

Darling has a good story to tell as it is clear that after the Northern Rock collapse he was well prepared for the problems of the US banks collapse and RBS. He demonstrates that he was able to handle the civil service properly and with authority. The response to the recession was hampered however by infighting with Gordon Brown. Darling seems to be level headed throughout, as was my memory of him from this time. Perhaps he was too level headed and should have left.

One point that emerges is that Blair and Brown were obsessed with their detailed knowledge of the previous Wilson and Callaghan governments and their shortcoming. This meant that they avoided rows at all costs and were nervous about doing obvious things such as bank nationalization and higher tax rates because of the way that previous labour governments had been portrayed. They or rather Brown made his biggest mistake in abolishing the 10% rate though the mistake was probably not to realize and admit there was a mistake. Darling understands all this but ultimately he was not going to win any argument with his Prime Minister. The book will be a useful contribution to the eventual history of the period and an antidote to some of the stuff which has come out. There is one mistake in that Tommy Docherty is described as "late" when happily as I write he is still among us.

Too Big to Fail: Inside the Battle to Save Wall Street
Too Big to Fail: Inside the Battle to Save Wall Street
by Andrew Ross Sorkin
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.26

4.0 out of 5 stars Insight into banking crisis, 7 Jan 2012
This is a most useful book which sets out the circumstances around the collapse of various banking institutions in the US in 2008. It gives a blow by blow account of what happened. It is both exhaustive and at times exhausting in its detail. The author rightly eschews judgment but we must be grateful for having the material on which judgments can be made.

My own view is that these bankers were rather unexceptional people , some of whom did well in the crisis. None of them had the foresight to act to avoid the crisis and it is difficult to understand how they justify their "compensation".

The book deserves reading though it is occasionally hard work.

The Prague Fatale: A Bernie Gunther Novel (Bernie Gunther Mystery 8)
The Prague Fatale: A Bernie Gunther Novel (Bernie Gunther Mystery 8)
by Philip Kerr
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 14.79

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gunther in Prague, 7 Jan 2012
This book takes takes our hero to Prague where he investigates a murder in the household of Heydrich.

It is really two books ; a description of Prague after the German invasion attached to a classic detective closed room puzzle. There is one great coincidence on which the plot rests which is rather clunky.

Whilst I enjoyed the book it does not have the conciseness of the early books.It is also in part overwritten with explanations given when they are not required and Gunther rather over egging his liberal credentials. A bit more cynicism would not go astray here and be more consistent with the character.

A good way to approach the terrible story of the Czech resistance. I was left pondering whether assassinating Heydrich was in the end a good thing, which is not a bad thing to be left with after reading a thriller such as this.

Chopin: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
Chopin: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
Price: 13.25

4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, 2 Nov 2011
Zimerman is an exceptional pianist and has given us many CDs to treasure. This is good but did not captivate as some others have, partly because it is too slow. The second concerto is some 5 minutes slower than my favorite (Ashkenazy and Zinman).Some beautiful detail is revealed but in the end it is a disc for Chopin specialists. For others I would try Zimerman's recording with Giulini or Ashkenazy or Perahia.

Mahler: Complete Symphonies 1-10 & Songs (Rattle) [14cd]
Mahler: Complete Symphonies 1-10 & Songs (Rattle) [14cd]
Price: 27.90

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good overall, 27 Sep 2011
Any collection of Mahler's music is going to have a difficult job in maintaining a consistently high standard. The music is demanding and no conductor is going to bring everything off. It is better to get individual symphonies rather than a box set.

Generally the overall virtue of the set is that it is well recorded with few of the hiccups one sees in other sets.
Turning to the individual symphonies, I liked 7,8,9 and10.Rattle handles the forces in 8 very well and the recording is not congested at the climaxes like Solti's otherwise classic recording. 9 is good and thankfully without the over emoting of Bernstein.The 10 is classic and essential listening. I also liked 7 which is a difficult symphony to pull off. Unlike others Rattle gets the finale right.

On the other hand 1 was rather quirky and included the generally omitted Blumine movement which is better heard separately. Walter or Kubelick are far better here. 3 was just not memorable. It is in this symphony that Bernstein's emotion is needed to get things over the finish line. 4 was quirky in places to little point. Szell is the master here. Rattle's Berlin 5 is better as is Abbado's. Barbarolli's 5 is slow but compelling listening. Mahler's best symphony is number 6 but is slightly lost by Rattle, having to changecds does not help.I hope he has another go at it. Abbado is the master here. I also like Szell very much and the desultory applause at the end of that CD (on Sony)seems to add to the dour atmosphere.

Mahler 2 is very well recorded and has the benefit of marvelous singers in Janet Baker and Arleen Auger. However, I prefer the attack in the first movement in older recordings by Walter and Klemperer and also their character in the landler 2nd movement. It all comes good in the end though strangely I would have liked to have heard applause at the end.

Another slightly quirky choice in Das Lied with baritone instead of contralto. One only has to listen to Haitinck with Baker and King or to the historic Ferrier recordings to see what a difference this makes.

Das Klagende Lied is a useful supplement from Mahler's youth.

Overall a good introduction at a good price to a master composer though not , in the end, a definitive cycle.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 15, 2011 3:49 AM BST

Mahler: Symphony No. 9
Mahler: Symphony No. 9
Price: 10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good ninth, 24 Sep 2011
This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No. 9 (Audio CD)
I must say that I find Rattle's recordings to be hit and miss affairs. He tends to try too many gimmicks, when a more straightforward approach would be better. That said I really rather enjoyed this recording which has fantastic recorded sound and made me enjoy this rather difficult symphony more than some of his more emotive colleagues.

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