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Alex Magpie "lexi_wades"

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Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
by Jeanette Winterson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

5 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, touching story of religion and sexuality, 31 Jan 2003
Winterson, in OANTOF, creates the seminal work on where lesbian relations fit in Christianity. Jeanette's confusion over her sexuality lets her question the dual tyranny in her life of Church and mother.
Winterson's writing is steeped in the almost surreal, biblical references and the opinions of her mam that are, in turn, engrossing, rich and humorous. There is a sense that she is performing some kind of writing gymnastics- her words leap around on the page so much. Winterson does not dwell on self-pity, her muddled up thoughts are mixed in so well with the fanatical pace and content of the book that the narrative never flags.
As refreshing as a summer breeze OANTOF is an important book for those interested in Christian or lesbian literature and is a wonderful book to read even of you are not.


Lady Chatterley's Lover (Essential Penguin)
Lady Chatterley's Lover (Essential Penguin)
by D. H. Lawrence
Edition: Paperback

13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Repression and the breaking of social conformity, 31 Jan 2003
The theme of a women needing sexual liberation that was so scandalous to society over seventy years ago has become almost the staple of intelligent modern female writing. However, LCL as the forerunner to today's literary focus on sex still strips many of these writings with its tale of passion and need to break social barriers sturdier than they are now.
There are two things that made LCL a unique book when it was published in 1928 and equally caused it to be banned. Firstly, the explicit sex scenes between Constance Chatterley and Mellows that even to the modern reader can be embarrassingly graphic. Added to this is Lawrence's detail of how Constance was sexually active before her marriage and her physical desires throughout the novel are far from the demure stereotype of female aristocracy. Secondly, the ending, which I won't give away, challenges the whole institution of marriage and is perhaps one of the first "modern" endings.
LCL is hardly perfect though. Lawrence's misogyny glowers from the page at some points and the characters are unfortunately quite two-dimensional. It seems a mistake on Lawrence's part to use a woman as the main character as he is unable to portray Constance in a realistic way- it is interesting that LCL is one of the few novels in which he does so. Our sympathy is often with the disabled Lord Chatterley especially at the end and so the climax of the novel can seem cheerless.
A fascinating piece on social boundaries during the inter-war period filled with insight but unfortunately flawed by making the storyline more important than the characters motives. LCL is far more engaging than Sons and Lovers but without the depth of characterisation of Women In Love.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 26, 2009 10:19 PM GMT


Finbar's Hotel
Finbar's Hotel
by Dermot Bolger
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Uneven hotel saga, 31 Jan 2003
This review is from: Finbar's Hotel (Paperback)
Within any collection of short stories there are always weak and strong pieces and very rarely have the complete feel that a novel has. Bolger's idea was to make one long story by interconnecting short pieces by different Irish writers on the same thing (a formula that has been repeated with Yeats Is Dead). Unfortunately, Bolger and the other FH contributors never quite succeed in a flowing collage of stories.
Some of the short stories have wildly different tones from the cat kidnap farce of room 103 to the sad memories of room 106 and instead of creating a wider canvas for exploring contrasting styles in one book the lack of real interplay between the stories means that the collection doesn't build up any sense of momentum remaining higgledy-piggledy. As a reader will always be more attracted to one type of style and tone than another the mixed-bag style of FH means that although some stories will be spot on for people there will always be some that don't.
Where one story overlaps another it has little to do with the core plot and, in some places, feels almost too convenient and superficial. A real Shakespearean interplay between plot strands would have made the book much more enjoyable and consistent but would in all probability be impossible to write using more than one author.
FH is amusing, touching and sad in places and the stories for the most part stand up well in their own right. Regrettably a collection of short stories by different people writing on the same subject in an overlapping style can never have the cohesion that a collection written by the same person could have and it is in this respect that FH really lets the reader down. This is very good effort of an unworkable plan and probably best to read as nine unrelated stories than think about their connections.


A Kestrel for a Knave (Penguin Modern Classics)
A Kestrel for a Knave (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Barry Hines
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bleak but beautiful tale of freedom, 31 Jan 2003
AKFAK contains the harsh reality of life for a boy, Billy, mistreated at home and at school and fated to work in a dead end job in the mines. His escape is his kestrel that he has reared and trained from a chick.
Hines never sweetens the story with false sentiment but keeps all the action gritty and realistic. What is surprising is that it is very easy to sympathise with Billy despite his prickliness, bad manners and violence. Hines portrays him, as a normal boy brought up in poverty without any aspirations- his bad behaviour is a product of these social elements rather than his true self.
There is a strong sense of love underneath the frustration and anger. Billy lives for his kestrel and his sense of devotion is what lifts an otherwise bleak social study to more optimistic levels. The Casper family have a strange mixture of violence, jealousy and love between them- it seems that despite the anger and threats their family must stick together.
The film, Kes, although very similar to the book and a wonderful work in its own right, has a different ending- perhaps motive enough for the film's many fans to read the book and see what really happened.
AKFAK mixes vivid descriptions of the countryside and small industrial town with fleshed out characters with great dialogue and a story that's simplicity tells a moving and plausible tale of hope and grim realism.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 10, 2013 9:20 PM BST


Steppenwolf (Essential Penguin)
Steppenwolf (Essential Penguin)
by Hermann Hesse
Edition: Paperback

11 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Swinging twenties Germany that never quite gets going, 30 Jan 2003
This is a novel of three parts. The first segment is a young man describing the new lodger, Harry. The second is that character's wonderings around the bohemian nightlife he inhibits. The last part is Harry's entry into a surreal and strange dimension. Unfortunately interest in the storyline lessens as the novel goes on and the three-part format means that there is no sense of closure at the end.
Harry is not a sympathetic figure- he is a rather pompous and dull man entirely alien to most who attempt to read this book. His fight against conformity seems false as from the beginning we can see he is far from "ordinary" being a melancholy hermit. His welcome into bohemian life seems odd and from this we can see he is less a fleshed out character than a vehicle for Hesse's ideas on life. The obviousness of this conceit means that Harry holds very little interest as a human being and the plot sometimes seems so dragging that I lost my patience many times whilst reading this. The lack of direction to it is bewildering.
This is a book that hinges on its deeper meaning and not storyline. However, it is clear that one was sacrificed in order to highlight the other and the absence of a plot, likable or even realistic characters and strange surrealism means that it is defiantly not a book for the mainstream British readership but those very interested in the themes of self discovery. But there are so many good works along the same lines e.g. pretty much anything by Camus or Kafka that make Steppenwolf pale by comparison.
Interestingly Kerorac in Big Sur mentions this book and thinks it dreadful- "an old man trying to throw off conformity". Probably one Kerorac fans should avoid then!


The Tale of Troy: Retold from the Ancient Authors (Puffin Classics)
The Tale of Troy: Retold from the Ancient Authors (Puffin Classics)
by Roger Green
Edition: Paperback

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The last ancient legend, 29 Jan 2003
The myth of the Trojan horse is familiar to most but the events that surrounded it are often less heard of, or more confusing. Green does an excellent job translating the legend of Troy into plain, easy to read English. Even the complex Greek names and inter-relationships are made clear.
The story starts with Zeus deciding to have a human daughter, Helen, and ends with Odessus reaching home. The scale, therefore, is epic in tome and includes all the mythic intrigues along the way of Achilles, Hector, Parris, Cassandra et al.
This is a true classic and the last legend of Greek mythology before history came into play. A wonderful, sometimes bloody, painting of Ancient Greece full of love, hate and destiny
I would recommend this to all ages 12 and up.


Cat's Cradle (Essential Penguin)
Cat's Cradle (Essential Penguin)
by Kurt Vonnegut
Edition: Paperback

10 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Armageddon and Ice Nine, 29 Jan 2003
Nothing can be more horrific than the end of the world. Vonnegut portrays Armageddon not through nuclear war, plague or comet collision but by mans obsession with furthering the cause of science and ultimately being imperfect enough to unleash its full force. Ice Nine is a creation that turns water to chemicals and instantly kills those who try to ingest it.
Despite the importance of the subject and the books subplot of religion I sometimes found it difficult to engage with the writing or emphasise with what was happening.
This is an important book for its themes and an interesting story.


One Hundred Years of Solitude (Essential Penguin)
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Essential Penguin)
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Edition: Paperback

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, magical and eloquent, 29 Jan 2003
This has to be the book that best encapsulates the true meaning of the magical realism school of literature. Although Marquez's world is steeped in strange, mythical images and happenings the "realness" of its people and issues makes the surreal seem logical in a way that should not work- but it does. The mixture of reality and surrealism feels dream-like in scope.
OHYOS is the kind of story that has to be read more than once to get the full amount of understanding from it- details from the beginning are important at the end. This may be especially be true if, like me, find the dense, rich language difficult to get into for a few chapters. The writing is so rich, in fact, that a huge amount of action can take place in the space of a few pages. This can be a hindrance at first but when you start to enjoy Marquez's words then you realise how beautiful a novel can be.
There is also much meaning behind the story line. The evolvement of the family shows a move from traditional to modern in the wider world although the time the novel is set is never shown (or needed to be).
There is much sadness in OHYOS to match the magic and dreaminess. If you like happy endings and glosses over deaths than this might not be suitable reading for you. For everyone else though I would highly recommend OHYOS- it is well worth the effort needed to place yourself in Marquez's world.


Midnight's Children (Picador Books)
Midnight's Children (Picador Books)
by Salman Rushdie
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rich, vibrant and symbolistic- shame about end, 29 Jan 2003
Rushdie's writing style is incredibly dense and rich making the going quite slow (especially considering this is no mere slip of a volume!). If you appreciate complex writing and don't need to necessarily finish a book in the space of a train journey you may enjoy Midnight's Children. Some of the other reviewers have criticised Rushdie's writing style as being too interruptive of the narrative and giving the game away. This may seem difficult for most Western readers to grasp but is following the traditions of Indian literature (and especially oral traditions). Rushdie's authorial comment adds to the sense of doom building in the novel.
Having said that the end is quite a let down in some respects- many of the characters are built up never to be heard of again and the operatic sense of fate is never fully executed.
This is still worth a read though if you like a taxing, mind-bending book even if it is flawed in the reading.


Midnight's Children
Midnight's Children
by Salman Rushdie
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rich, vibrant and symbolistic- shame about end, 29 Jan 2003
This review is from: Midnight's Children (Hardcover)
Rushdie's writing style is incredibly dense and rich making the going quite slow (especially considering this is no mere slip of a volume!). If you appreciate complex writing and don't need to necessarily finish a book in the space of a train journey you may enjoy Midnight's Children. Some of the other reviewers have criticised Rushdie's writing style as being too interruptive of the narrative and giving the game away. This may seem difficult for most Western readers to grasp but is following the traditions of Indian literature (and especially oral traditions). Rushdie's authorial comment adds to the sense of doom building in the novel.
Having said that the end is quite a let down in some respects- many of the characters are built up never to be heard of again and the operatic sense of fate is never fully executed.
This is still worth a read though if you like a taxing, mind-bending book even if it is flawed in the reading.


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