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J. Day (Maine, United States)

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Craven House
Craven House
by Patrick Hamilton
Edition: Paperback

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Politeness to laugh at, 7 April 2009
This review is from: Craven House (Paperback)
Craven House is one of the more interesting books I've read in the past year or so. Don't let the seemingly bland context of the story fool you and deprive you of this absurdly funny and engaging adventure into the lives of the early-1900s British elite. When I first picked up the book I was confused at how bland it seemed it was going to be, but Hamilton takes the content with a subtlety of humour that I've never seen before. You can tell that he's mocking the prim, proper, and agonizingly pretentious nature of this class of people. Etiquette and awkward conversation become comic social commentary as the characters make complete and utter fools of themselves as they desperately try to live up to their ideas of society's expectations. Underlying this all is a unbelievably charming love story that you desperately want to come into fruition and suffer with the two involved when problems arise.
Hamilton's writing style is something to be admired in of itself. It is elegant and ornate, but twisted into this is a second form, irregularly structured with unique vocabulary and syntax that contrasts with the more classical structure to add to the air of awkward comedy that pervades the entirety of the book. His characters pop out as strikingly real as he develops for each a distinct way of speaking and thinking. Like the book itself, the characters are one way on the outside; uniform, mild-mannered, and perfect gentlemen/women, but on the inside they each have a uniqueness that comes out to play from time to time. Toward the end of the novel, these sorts of Jungian Shadows start breaking through the walls of their cages of society imposed suppression, and the reader gets to have a long series of chuckles at the expense of their collective psychological degeneration.
Above all, this book is an engaging read if you like the subtle humour of the author and you can appreciate the mastery with which he creates painfully awkward situations that you can't help but cringe at whilst you're laughing at the absurdity of the character's daily lives. It's a brilliant book, even to a sci-fi wonk like myself. Give it a read!

Off the Road: Twenty Years with Cassady, Kerouac and Ginsberg
Off the Road: Twenty Years with Cassady, Kerouac and Ginsberg
by Carolyn Cassady
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.95

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shedding new light and creating new characters, 7 April 2009
My curiosity was first peaked in "Off the Road" by, as I'm sure is often the case, my earlier reading of the works by the enigmatic Jack Kerouac and my consequent desire to learn more about not only him but the legendary Neal Cassidy that I had come to know under the pseudonym "Dean Moriarty" in "On the Road". I wasn't entirely taken with the dynamic pair, knowing the havoc they wreaked on the lives of others through their dangerous adventures across the country and other reckless behaviour, but at the same time there was a glamour to their style of life that kept me intrigued. A zest for life that was infectious. A second opinion seemed necessary.
It was not quite what I expected. I was interested in the story, but I was expecting perhaps something of a rant against the injustices Carolyn had to endure. Far from it. Carolyn is a strong writer in her own respect, chronicling her adventures and misadventures with the famous characters she lived with, loved, and was justly agonizingly torn over. The narrative of the tale flows with a beauty that kept me turning pages when I least expected it (you know, 2AM with work the next morning...) Carolyn produces unbelievable insight into all of the psychologies and actions of those around her, particularly considering how long ago all the events happened, backing these musings with later actions and a massive amount of correspondence between Neal, Jack, Allen, and herself. She gives the less glamorous side of the tales that Kerouac narrated in his books, balancing that allure of the freedom granted by the open road and the kicks of drugs, women, and danger the two men loved, with the depression they both faced, the internal struggles they had to cope with, and their ultimate self-destruction.
This book gives both an intriguing and engrossing tale in its own right, but also displays just how multi-faceted these famous figures of the beat generation were; that they were not strictly road-hardened, adventure seekers, but gentle, complex, loving, paranoid, and tragic all at the same time. On the road was just one of dozens of sides of the diamond that is the tale of these famous men and women.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 7, 2015 8:27 PM BST

Windows on the Moon
Windows on the Moon
by Alan Brownjohn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.00

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eventful uneventfulness, 7 April 2009
This review is from: Windows on the Moon (Hardcover)
This novel was a bit perplexing at first. I confess, the premise behind it didn't seem all that interesting to me; plain people living plain lives and dealing with plain, remarkably bland situations... well, aside from the French national on the run from post-war retribution. But the odd thing was, more often than not I found myself getting engrossed in the lives of these strikingly ordinary people. I felt compelled by Jack's blooming world-knowledge, worried for Pierre's anonymity, being suspicious of Ludden's actions, and worried about Sylvia's childish naivety despite her being forced into being much more of an adult. The small tidbits and miscellaneous experiences that the characters had throughout the book created vivid, three-dimensional entities, each resounding with a strong sense of reality. I think the quote that I found near the end really sums up Brownjohn's idea behind the telling of this story: "It was odd that the most important parts of life, she thought, the things that changed for ever, went on in the midst of so much ordinariness, so many trivial things." It's clear that Brownjohn had this in mind when he wrote this tale of the every day.
If it gives any indication of how well the creation of the characters worked, I can't say that I was happy with the ending, not because it left loose ends, but because not everyone ended up where I wanted them to be. Actually... barely anyone...

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