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jd (uk)

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Norwegian Wood
Norwegian Wood
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars has something....but it is well hidden, 18 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Norwegian Wood (Paperback)
I had to read this for book group but otherwise would have dropped it 50 pages in. There is no doubt that there is something in this- some insights into the tortured human heart, but it is hard to sieve them out of nearly 400 pages of tedium. Plot and characters are simplistic and predictable to the point of naivety. Emo,self absorbed teenagers striving to be complex and interesting by listening to particular music or reading the right books and thinking about death are all cliches. I have to imagine (I'm guessing now) that in its day this book was ground breaking and risky in its exploration of sex outside the mores of conservative Japanese society: a sort of DH Lawrence of the late 20th c , but that doesn't make it good literature. Some negative reviews have suggested something may have been lost in translation and I have wondered this about a number of contemporary Japanese novels- particularly in dialogue- but not all by any means. I would love someone who is bilingual to comment . I find the dialogue in particular naive, naff and clunky. What else? Lots of dull, unedited description that adds nothing. Lots of toe curling sex. Some great inadvertent laugh out loud moments.


The Children Act
The Children Act
by Ian McEwan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.89

29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Important novelist now withdrawing not paying into the bank, 19 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: The Children Act (Hardcover)
I have been an Ian McEwan fan for years. he writes beautiful prose and he crafts the structure of a novel in a satisfying way. All true of this novel too, but for me, this novel is content free. Yes there is some interesting research into an establishment life (high court judge) that through his social connections McEwan is able to access - he talks about this in interviews- but the stories themselves- conjoined twins -kill one to save one (see how easy to summarise succinctly) Jehovah's witnesses don't like blood transfusions , but a child may not be able to understand the consequences of refusal or form their view objectively(ditto) have been so rehearsed in the press through out my adult life that there is nothing new there. I would normally say that these aspects of story are not what the novel is about and that they are simply context - but if you listen to McEwan on the book you would think they were the whole point of it. I went to listen to him at the Cheltenham festival in the hope that he would shed some light on the protagonist who I didn't get at all And instead we had to listen to a tired slow dull old judge ( Mcewan's friend) talk slowly and dully about conjoined twins and Jehovah's witnesses- with gory hospital slides! The overall impression from the book and the interviews is that McEwan is writing very self consciously and safely for an a very proper audience of the great and the good. It is a tired novel. I would like to see him get out of London and go to India with a backpack or publish anonymously without worrying about his audience .


The Death of Ivan Ilyich & Other Stories (Wordsworth Classics)
The Death of Ivan Ilyich & Other Stories (Wordsworth Classics)
by Leo Tolstoy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great collection, 7 Aug. 2014
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Really, really good Tolstoy in small undaunting novella length short stories. Probably the fiction I most admire. Each story in this collection is outstanding.


Roads: Driving America's Great Highways
Roads: Driving America's Great Highways
by Larry McMurtry
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.58

5.0 out of 5 stars Eclectic travel (?), 7 Aug. 2014
This book works well with a us road trip, but if you are not that familiar with us geography it helps to have google maps to hand. I'm not sure what this book is. Geography, history, reflection. McMurtry is eclectic and so this bit of everything might frustrate some readers- I don't think it is for everyone, and in a different time and place it might make me feel that way. Being uplifted by a view he says "this feeling, I suspect,is testimony to how determinative one's primal geography is. I had a plains upbringing and something in me responds to the plains as to no other landscape." It. Was worth reading for this concise but eloquent point alone.


The Housekeeper and the Professor by Ogawa, Yoko (2010)
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Ogawa, Yoko (2010)

5.0 out of 5 stars Uplifting, 6 May 2014
A short, beautifully written novel. The blurb on the back describes Ogawa as having Ishiguru's restraint and I would absolutely agree with that. There is something very satisfying about reading about characters whose motives are pure and whose rules for living are absolute, and something very moving about characters who expect so little emotionally or materially who nevertheless have a richness and depth to their experience of life.


The Buddha in the Attic
The Buddha in the Attic
by Julie Otsuka
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars recommend to anyone, 6 May 2014
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This is a beautifully written, dense short novel. It has original voice and it contains a distillation of a wealth of research. The research is worn lightly so that you absorb much about the experience of the Japanese picture brides while being carried along by a the tide of voices. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't want to read this.


Granta 127: Japan (Studies in Continental Thought)
Granta 127: Japan (Studies in Continental Thought)
by Yuka Igarashi
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A bit odd, 6 May 2014
Best Young British Novelists, great, Spanish- great selection of writing, Brazilian-likewise. What I expected here to be a representative slice of contemporary Japanese writing: this was a bit odd, a bit bonkers and knowing that there is a lot of great contemporary Japanese literature it would be wonderful to access, it seems like a missed opportunity. Although each Japanese piece had a different translator, I found several of the translations unappealing (either that or it was unappealing writing style I'm not qualified to judge), rendering dialogue in several pieces clunky and naive- sounding.Heavy use of American English also jarred. Another criticism is that this anthology not very Japanese: lots of writers not Japanese- which seems like a missed opportunity, even if David Mitchell's contribution was easily the best. I liked it when Granta had an editorial -if there was one here I perhaps wouldn't be so bewildered by what they were trying to achieve. Did the illustrator also not deserve a mention? Perhaps I missed it, but it seemed well hidden.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 12, 2014 10:13 AM BST


Panasonic NA-168VX4WGB 8 KG, 1600 Spin Washing Machine
Panasonic NA-168VX4WGB 8 KG, 1600 Spin Washing Machine

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars terrible customer service, 30 Jan. 2014
so you take off the anchor bolts which hold the drum during delivery, closely following instructions which come with your ne w machine and the plastic barrel of the bolt falls inside the machine where it is inaccessible. Panasonic's uk servicing agent says it will probably not damage the machine or burn your house down, and that your warranty doesn't cover them coming to remove it. After an hour on the phone to Panasonic's customer service centre in Romania you establish: no don't use it like that because it is potentially dangerous one must assume, yes this does happen to other people, not they will not cover it under warranty. Utterly ridiculous illogical response, mixed advice on safetying which is worry, terrible, terrible customer service.Why would you buy this? The test of a good company isn't always whether things go right in the first place, it is how they deal with problems.


Gentlemen of the Road
Gentlemen of the Road
Price: £4.31

5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Escape, 9 Oct. 2013
This was so enjoyable: great action filled plot full of humour and interest. Set in the Caucasus mountains in 950 AD it is sufficiently far away in time and place to make the casual violence and the arbitrary nature of death untroubling. The content would appeal to anyone who might enjoy a little escapism, the humour and language are very satisfying to a literate taste in a way a lot of overtly comic literature isn't. The description of a character as "a would be sharp operator who lacked for the satisfaction of his ambition only the quality of sharpness and who expended all his energies..on preserving his opinions from contamination by experience" exemplifies what I like about Michael Chabon's style. This book is a worth buying and saving for light relief in an emergency because there are not enough like it.


Herzog (Penguin Modern Classics)
Herzog (Penguin Modern Classics)
Price: £6.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dated, of its time, historical interest only, 21 Sept. 2013
I read this because it is reckoned to be the best novel of one of the greatest US novelists of the 20th century and I am trying to fill that gap in my reading and understand the story America wants to tell about itself.
I'm glad I read it, it is really interesting in what it tells of US society in the early 60's, but at the same time I didn't like it,and found its hero deeply uninteresting.

In the 1960s the world was run by white, middle aged, middle class, american men and its commentators were the academic equivalents. Women were gaining status and there was a deep mistrust and fear of this development reflected here: first wife, doormat, traditional, a saint, second wife, more self determining, academic and with her own sexuality, demonised; descriptions of women which objectify them and are clumsy which while presumably unremarkable in their day are appropriate now only for much lower denominator writing; the repeated use of 'bitch' which is unsavoury and misogynistic.
How you respond to a novel can reflect what you have been reading or thinking about: Herzog who we are meant, I think, to pity for his angst and sense of displacement, seems to have trivial concerns and needs to grow up - if you have just been reading Vasilly Grossman who writes of people in a similar era who actually have something to complain about. This novel is of its time and to my mind has dated badly for that reason.


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