Profile for Diane Byrnes > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Diane Byrnes
Top Reviewer Ranking: 191,662
Helpful Votes: 25

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Diane Byrnes

Page: 1 | 2
The Channings
The Channings
by Mrs. Henry Wood
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.44

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All Because of a Ten Pound Note!!, 13 Nov 2013
This review is from: The Channings (Paperback)
Gosh, I remember loving this book everytime I've read it. There are no smoking
guns or grisly violence but it is a real page turner - in fact a family's whole honour turns on the disappearance of a ten pound note!!
The Channings are held in such high regard in the sleepy Cathedral town of Helstonleigh
but young Charley Channing is not much thought of by his school fellows. Led by bullying
Gerald Yorke he is constantly teased, called "Miss Charley" and when the book begins
is deeply involved in "the ink on the surplice" scandal. Seems to be a common theme in
Mrs. Wood's books (some that I have read anyway) - the ostracizing of young boys who are
almost saints in their own family's, the town's and definitely the author's eyes, being
bullied unmercifully by their peers - in fact in one (I'm pretty sure it was "Mildred
Arkell") the child even died.
Anyway things go from bad to worse with Charley until a prank gone perilously wrong has
most of the town believing that he is drowned. With Charley disappearing for most of the
book and the family in deep despair, the last thing they need is yet another sorrow but
get it they do in spades (this is a Mrs. Henry Wood book!!) Their golden boy (yes, another
one) Arthur, is accused of being a thief when the petty cash tin (where he works) is
robbed of a 10 pound note after a street parade has drawn all of the staff's attention
to the window. It is completely clear to any idiot that it has to be Roland Yorke - he
is lazy, disliked in the town and after the theft absconds to the Colonies!! - yet
Arthur is the only one who stands up for him. I suppose because it looks so obvious, it
is still a shock when Roland is finally unmasked. If he is such a "jolly decent fellow"
as Arthur proclaims why did he just sit back and let Arthur be blamed. Somehow "I thought
I would have enough time to put it back" doesn't quite cut it.
Apart from the riveting "East Lynne" there is an awful lot of moralizing in Mrs. Henry
Wood's books and "The Channings" is no exception.

Harold Lloyd: The Man on the Clock
Harold Lloyd: The Man on the Clock
by Tom Dardis
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Call Me "Speedy"!!, 2 Nov 2013
I don't care if Harold Lloyd's comedy is described as mechanical or not in the same lofty
class as Chaplin or Keaton - he really makes me laugh, really hard - whether he is the
rattled husband who takes his in-laws for a ride in his new car and comes back in a wreck
("Hot Water"), battling with packages and a live turkey on a crowded trolley ("Hot Water"
again), wanting desperately to be liked and popular by college prats in "The Freshman" -
fortunately beautiful Jobyna Ralston was on hand to bring him down to earth!! just about
every minute of "Girl Shy" and of course those glorious chases in "For Heaven's Sake". It
doesn't even matter to me that he was not such a wonderful person - his films were his
legacy. This book was an impulse buy - as soon as I realised that Tom Dardis was the writer,
that was good enough for me.
Lloyd couldn't draw on the pathos and poverty of Chaplin or the knockabout vaudeville or
abusive childhood of Keaton but he could draw on his background of small town life and he
did in almost every film. Although in most of his interviews he described himself as a
typical American freckled faced kid (the first chapter is called "Tom Sawyer's Younger
Brother") Dardis uncovers the fact that his family moved constantly from one small town to
another due to his father's disastrous head for business as he plunged his capital into one
hairbrain scheme after another. His mother grew to loathe his father so much that when
Harold married Mildred Davis in the early 1920s his parents weren't invited - Lloyd said
he was too scared of the consequences if they happened to find themselves in the same room
together. Harold's relationship with his father (nicknamed "Foxy" and who sent beautiful
letters of encouragement to Harold until he died) was very close.
Lloyd started out in Hollywood as "Lonesome Luke" one of the many Chaplin imitators but he
was always enterprising and wanted to create a new character and with his "glass" character
he really stood out and fans of the time (1918,1919) noticed and praised him in their fan
mail. What set Lloyd apart from Keaton (though they were good friends) was his business
sense - he created a family trust in "The Harold Lloyd Corporation" in 1923 and gathered
around him his brother, father and an uncle who didn't steer him wrong in their advice.
He was also a bit of a ladies man who fell desperately in love with his first leading lady,
Bebe Daniels and they almost married. Lucky for Bebe they didn't - she really had too much
get up and go. Lloyd, with memories of a strident and harping mother, preferred his women
soft and sweet and found the perfect combination in Mildred Davis (his leading lady in
"Safety Last").
His home "Greenacres" was a monumental Italian Renaissance Palace set on 16 acres in
Benedict Canyon - it needed 18 gardeners to keep the grounds in order!! It was imposing and
tasteless, their daughter's playhouse was the size of a small house but Dardis points out
that in the mid 1920s most stars had opulent mansions - they are almost saying "how big and
popular are we - look at our houses"!!! There is the downside - "Greenacres" became too
costly to run and when Preston Sturges visited in the late 1940s it had a "Miss Havisham"
feel, nothing had been replaced since it had been built in the late 1920s. Also because
of it's size it had a very isolating effect, when Harold's fortunes down turned in the
1930s, he turned to his innumerable hobbies and Mildred, feeling alone, turned to alcohol.
Lloyd was also pretty stingy and Dardis feels no doubt that he was a womaniser but everyone,
even Mildred apparently, seemed to know. On a more positive note Lloyd was very supportive
of his son's homosexuality - Dardis felt it was very rare for a father in the 1940s -
especially one like Harold who loved sport and exercise and Harold and "Dukey" (Hal Jnr's
nickname) were very close - even when his son indulged in "rough trade". He and Mildred
also bought up their little grand- daughter Suzanne as if she were their own as her mother
spent her time travelling the world.
A riveting read - probably more for "Speedy's" fans. A very concise filmography concludes
this book. As regards the other reviewer, I don't think Dardis denigrated Lloyd's activity
in the Shriners. He seemed to believe that it brought out Harold's benevelont and caring
side when he worked with crippled children.

Shadows of Sherlock Holmes (Wordsworth Classics)
Shadows of Sherlock Holmes (Wordsworth Classics)
by David Stuart Davies
Edition: Paperback
Price: £1.89

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sherlock Holme's Rivals, 7 Oct 2013
I don't know what some of these reviewers were expecting. The back cover
(on my Wordsworth edition) shows that there are no Conan Doyle stories
in this book and the introduction is also a big plus as it seeks to show
why Sherlock Holmes was so influential and instantly spawned so many
imitators. There is also a paragraph on each of the authors represented.
I liked all the stories but it took an American writer, Bret Harte, to
come up with a hilarious parody, "The Stolen Cigar Case" - I laughed myself
silly. His creation is Hemlock Jones, an egotistical bore who solves crimes
before they even happen. He is in turn followed around by a down at heel
doctor who is first introduced caressing the doctor's feet!! He is a beggar
because he spends all his time following Jones around and hanging off his
every word and has lost the few patients he had managed to keep. Really
hilarious - although probably not for Sherlock Holmes devotees!!
Another truly funny one is "The Biter Bit" by Wilkie Collins - an incompetent
assistant who thinks he has more brains than all of Scotland Yard put together
and exasperated Inspector Theakston who fortunately has the last laugh.
Others I really liked were "The Problem of Dressing Room A" featuring "The
Thinking Machine" (I'm not joking!!) and "The Princess's Vengeance" featuring
Loveday Brooke, one of the earliest female investigators, appearing in print
only a few years after Sherlock Holmes.

Jessie Matthews: A Biography
Jessie Matthews: A Biography
by Michael Thornton
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dancing Divinity, 12 Aug 2013
She was nicknamed the Dancing Divinity and this enthralling book readily draws
you into her dazzling life of highs and many lows. In the 1930s she was Britain's
best bet for international stardom but personal problems kept her in England and
she missed the opportunity to be a real threat to Eleanor Powell. Only a few years
earlier Fred Astaire, who had worked with her when she was a West End star, desperately
wanted her to replace his sister Adele as his new dancing partner but once again, being
on the brink of movie stardom, she didn't go and Ginger Rogers got the job. By the mid
1930s her husband Sonnie Hale, miffed at being on the sidelines, started to direct
her films and her box office allure came crashing down, his films just didn't have
the light, sophisticated touch of Victor Saville's. The tragedy was she was that rare
dancer who excelled as both a partner and as a soloist but she never got the chance to
display her talents to the world.
Matthews was born in dire poverty, one of 9 children who was given a chance of dancing
lessons when she was seen dancing in the street. She had charisma and charm but also a
hard work ethic and progressed up the chorus girl ranks until she became a West End star
in a series of witty Rogers and Hart musicals "One Dam Thing After Another", "Evergreen"
etc, mostly starring with Sonnie Hale who became her second husband. In between were the
lows - her innocence and luminous quality seemed to attract the rotters and an abortion
in the mid 1920s may have been the catalyst for a lot of her mental health problems. There
was a disastrous 1st marriage to a womaniser and a gambler and involvement in a national
scandal when her affair with Sonnie Hale became public knowledge and his wife, Evelyn
Laye, a beloved star, saw red and the public sided with her. The divorce case in which lurid
letters from Miss Matthews were read out in court gave the press a field day. Even when the
scandal died down Jessie had to contend with the "sister-in-law from Hell" in Binnie Hale
who only ceased her animosity when Sonnie....
Once you've seen Jessie you'll never forget her. Quite often her dances ("Dancing on the
Ceiling") were spontaneous creations. There was always a song in her films that featured
a "barely there" costume (a feathery bird creation for "First a Girl", a sequinned cat
suit for "It's Love Again") and she was not only a looker but could really dance - they
called her the dancing divinity because her dancing was out of this world!! This is the
story of a real trouper who despite breakdowns and set backs was only happy when giving
her all to an audience.
This book also features a thorough index with all her stage appearances, films and a
complete discography.

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets & Other Stories: A Girl of the Streets and Other Stories (Wordsworth Classics)
Maggie: A Girl of the Streets & Other Stories: A Girl of the Streets and Other Stories (Wordsworth Classics)
by Stephen Crane
Edition: Paperback
Price: £1.89

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bleak and Realistic, 27 Mar 2013
When Stephen Crane started work on "The Red Badge of Courage" he had just published
"Maggie: A Girl of the Streets" and was instantly proclaimed internationally as one
of the new breed of modern realistic writers. W. Somerset Maugham must have been
influenced by this book when he wrote his sensational first novel "Liza of Lambeth"
- especially when you compare the very similar endings.

The character of Maggie I found sketchy as far as characterization went but the
description of the depressing poverty and the street life of the Bowery of the 1890s
is brilliantly brought to life. Throughout the novella Maggie retains her goodness and
innocence - the child of a brutal father and a drunken mother, her younger brother
Jimmie is already a seasoned street fighter but when she meets Pete she believes he
is her white knight but how wrong she is.

The other stories include "The Monster" one of the first stories that has a white writer
portraying a black man performing a heroic act. When Henry Johnson rescues Jimmy from a
burning house Dr. Trescott, in turn, saves Henry's life but Henry has been left with
horrific burns and he becomes "the monster" of the title and is eventually ostracized by
the town.

There are three terrific western stories - "The Blue Hotel", I have seen in a couple of
anthologies and is the best known.

"His New Mittens" deals with that crisis from childhood - running away from home. Horace
is fed up with his treatment at home and decides to run away. He gets as far as the
butcher's next door but Crane's vivid description shows that Horace is loved and wanted
after all. The title "An Illusion in Red and White" says it all and is a chilling account
of how young children can be manipulated by an evil father.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 8, 2013 6:20 PM BST

Evil Intentions Omnibus: Find Me A Villain; The Cost of Silence: Crime in Question
Evil Intentions Omnibus: Find Me A Villain; The Cost of Silence: Crime in Question
by Margaret Yorke
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Intriguing Crime Writer!!!, 6 Dec 2011
Just had to come on and add my two cents after reading the less than
enlightening review here - I wonder whether they were reviewing the
same book, anyway here goes. Margaret Yorke would have to be the most
intriguing crime writer - I don't know anything about her but I do know
as a mystery writer she is the creme de la creme and also a lot more
consistent in her excellence than Ruth Rendell. She is at her best with
stories concerning the loneliness and sometimes fear of elderly people
and even though those days may be gone, I always think I would like to
live in a Margaret Yorke village where people are usually friendly,
sensible and non judgemental. This is an omnibus and I don't think you
will get better value anywhere on Amazon - I think I paid about 1 penny
plus postage.
Find Me a Villain - Nina has just found out her husband has left her for
a much younger woman he has been seeing for several years and she is
devastated. A chance encounter with a woman in a tea shop finds her with a
new occupation, she is to be a housesitter but a series of anonymous phone
calls finds her drawn into her new employers life and past - much more
than she wants to be. To complicate matters there is also a killer on the
loose at a neighbouring town!!!
The Cost of Silence - One of my favourites - a lot of her books deal with
different themes, this one with children and dogs!!! Jamie is scared of
dogs - his earnest mother is determined he should have one, even though his
father is unconvinced. He is especially scared of a big dog who lies in wait
for him on his way to school. The dog is owned by a woman, whose neglect of
her toddler is a strong case for child abuse. Norman, a local shopkeeper, has
taken to walking Jamie down that particular street and is trying to talk him
out of his fears. Norman's mother died in mysterious circumstances and Norman
is now married to her nurse. A subplot involves an elderly woman and her much
loved dog Pedro and how an encounter with a particularly vicious young thug
destroys her life. All these story threads come together for a very satisfying
Crime in Question - Involves prisoners on work release and the lives of the
families who become involved with them. Audrey, the elderly woman, who gives
Jim a job - he is not a hardened criminal but just someone who got into debt
through his wife's extravagance. Yvonne and Charles, another couple are struggling
to keep up payments on their home while Charles is being hauled over the coals
by his demanding ex-wife.
The only problem with Margaret Yorke books are the titles. To me they are just too
generic, almost plucked out of the air and don't seem to bear much relation to
the actual plots.

The Unclassed
The Unclassed
by George Gissing
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.14

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Power of Books, 17 Nov 2011
This review is from: The Unclassed (Paperback)
People who have read even a couple of Gissing's
books are probably familiar with his sad life.
"The Unclassed" - an extraordinary 2nd novel,
was written in the darkest days of his relationship
with Nell Harrison. She was a young prostitute he
had met when he was at Wakefield College. By the
time "The Unclassed" was published in 1884 he was
completely disgusted and disillusioned with his
life with Nell. Even though he married her in 1879,
at Nell's insistence, he forever held the view that
books and reading could completely elevate a person
from even the lowest social standing. Unfortunately
it didn't work with Nell but, doggedly, Gissing
tried with his wife from his equally disastrous
second marriage.
The three main women characters are introduced in the
first chapter and as usual Gissing doesn't monkey
around but plunges the reader into a distressing
incident that has serious consequences for 2 of the
children. When the story opens, Harriet Smales is
lying unconscious on the school room floor, Ida
Starr having hit her with a slate. Harriet has
taunted her about her mother's occupation (she is
a prostitute) and Ida, who has a very close and
loving relationship with her mother, retaliates.
Harriet Smales is a very unpleasant character -
polluted and sickly in mind and body (according
to Gissing). Ida has to leave school and the next
time we meet her it is seven years later when she
makes the acquaintance of Osmond Waymark. She is a
completely different type of character than anyone
else I have met with in Victorian fiction (except
in Gissing's other books) - she is vibrant,
intelligent, independent and able to converse with
Waymark instantly as his equal. She has worked on
the streets but really it is definately not as
confronting or realistic as "The Nether World".
Harriet Smales has married her cousin Julian Casti,
a dreamer and poet but ultimately weak who is
eventually destroyed by Harriet's evilness. She
meets up with Ida again, has never forgiven her for
the childish fight and seizes the chance to do her
some harm. She accuses Ida of stealing and Ida goes
to prison but again it is dealt with in a very
shadowy way, there is no talk of Ida's experiences
in prison, it was probably still too painful for
Gissing to really dwell on.

The third girl is Lucy Enderby, she was sweet and
compassionate toward Ida when they were children
but Lucy has her own sad past. Her father embezzled
some church funds so he flees the country, her mother
can't cope and leaves Lucy in the care of a fanatical
aunt who brings Lucy up to believe that anything that
brings you happiness is a sin and only in death will
you find joy. Gissing obviously modelled her on his
mother and elder sister.
Oddly enough for all Gissing's sometimes sexist
views his female characters almost always over
power the male characters. Osmond Waymark is an
aspiring writer, who eventually writes a book that
evokes a powerful picture of the London slums
(like "The Nether World")- unfortunately it is not
a success. He is completely entranced by Ida (she
really is his ideal companion) but Maud answers his
needs in another way - her goodness, her almost
holiness, so when Ida goes to prison he becomes very
involved with Maud - even though he knows Ida is his
perfect match!!
There are a few confronting scenes involving some
slum dwellings in Litany Lane and Elm Court. Mr.
Woodstock, Ida's grandfather, is one of those
notorious slum landlords and during a visit he is
overcome by a ghastly smell which is traced to the
cellar where the body of a dead child is discovered.
There is also a conversation between Julian and
Waymark. Casti is married to the vicious Harriet and
he has come to the realisation that if he continues
living with her he will go out of his mind. Waymark
is giving him sound advice on how to leave her, until
I suddenly realised that Gissing had predicted his
own domestic situation 10 years into the future. It
was quite bizarre and I started to think of Gissing's
life - was he powerless to stop his disastrous union
with Edith or did he plunge into it because he
thrived on upheavel (he wrote his best books while
married to her).
Another memorable part is near the book's end when
Ida, now wealthy and the new landlord of Litany Lane
and Elm Court, takes a special interest in the young
girls of the slums - she takes them on picnics and
goes out of her way to make sure they will never
have the temptations that she was subjected to. I am
not sure if Gissing would agree but I believe deep
down he was a staunch feminist.

The Helen West Case Book - The Complete Collection [DVD]
The Helen West Case Book - The Complete Collection [DVD]
Dvd ~ Amanda Burton
Price: £10.54

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Series From a Woman's Point of View, 9 Jun 2011
Having read a couple of the Helen West books I was very
keen to have this series and I was not disappointed (much).
There are only 3 episodes but they definately feature a
woman's angle from all sides.
1. "Deep Sleep" - Starts with Helen recovering from an
operation and things are fine on the romantic front but
Helen is not convinced about the death of a chemist's wife
that has been called "death by misadventure". Creepy is the
only word to describe the chemist (Dermot Crowley) - most of
the customers think he is a saint but he has lustful
fantasies about his assistant and her young son doesn't like
him (some children have a sixth sense about things)!! This
episode is by far the best.
2. "Shadow Play" was extremely slow to get started but after
the first 45 minutes pieces started slotting into the jigsaw.
There was a bit too much of Helen West's relations with
Barney and not enough plot. The general story was of a man
completely destroyed by his wife's disappearance with their
daughter. He then starts following children around - but is
he as innocent as he appears??
3. "A Clear Conscience" deals with domestic violence - in a
chilling tale of a sadistic boxer, a psychotic brother and a
young woman caught up with it all who just happens to work as
a domestic cleaner and the terrible price people pay.
Amanda Burton does a terrific job as Helen West. The first
episode was far and away the best. The other two were both
slow to get going and the romantic entanglements of Helen
and Bailey got in the way a lot of the time.

A Life's Morning
A Life's Morning
by George Gissing
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.07

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gissing At His Most Lyrical, 19 April 2011
This review is from: A Life's Morning (Paperback)
Pick up most of Gissing's early books and within two chapters
you are plunged into a sometimes nightmare world of poverty
and drama - -but not this one. "A Life's Morning" explores
the world of a young governess, Emily Hood, who catches the
eye of Wilfred Athel, who is recuperating, after a nervous
breakdown forced him to leave Oxford (shades of Gissing's
own experience). He is taken with Emily's calmness and sincerity
but Wilfred is highly strung and Emily has some dark family
secrets - even Beatrice, the cousin, who Mr. Athel and his
sister Mrs. Rossell are convinced will marry Wilfred, has insanity
in the family - definate Gissing territory.
All Gissing's novel's are very personal and this one is no
exception. Emily seems to have been based on Gissing's favourite
sister, Ellen and the theme of the book has influences from
two books Gissing held in high regard - "Middlemarch" by George
Eliot and "North and South" by Mrs. Gaskell.
"Middlemarch" - Wilfred seems to be a combination of Causabon and
Ladislaw. Initially Wilfred envys people who can devote their
life to the study of one subject (C) but as he comes across
opposition to his marriage, he impulsively wants to leave Oxford
- ideally to become a "student of life" (L). Also like Ladislaw
he has dark "foreign" looks (his father was from Italy) and he also
finds he is a natural for politics.
"North and South" - Gissing has the contrasting areas of picturesque
Surrey. Apparently in letters written to his sisters, Gissing had
fallen in love with Surrey and wrote rapturously about it but his
sisters were not impressed. Emily hails from Yorkshire and can see
nothing pleasant about it. (Unlike "North and South" where Margaret
grew to love the North's strength and dynamism). This was the only
novel in which Gissing put his thoughts and descriptions about
Wakefield, his boyhood home into a novel (here called Dunfield).
Gissing also believed in "soulmates" - two people being in the right
place at the right time and being perfect for each other. He explored
this in his last novel "A Crown of Life" , but here the theme is explored
almost 12 years earlier, in "A Life's Morning" - even the expression "a
crown of life" is used a few times to indicate the highest love.
But... it wouldn't be a Gissing novel without a big but!! Emily's father,
Mr. Hood, finds a 10 pound note in a ledger - he takes it with him on an
errand, meaning to hand it to Mr. Dagworthy, when he returns. But Dagworthy,
has intentionally left it there, hoping to catch out
a poor clerk in dishonesty. Dagworthy, is probably the character I will
always remember from this book. Even though he is the villain, he is very
dynamic and Gissing, maybe unintenionally, has given him much sympathy.

Gideon's Way - The Complete Series [Repackaged] [DVD] [1965]
Gideon's Way - The Complete Series [Repackaged] [DVD] [1965]
Dvd ~ John Gregson
Price: £18.50

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tribute to the Policeman on the Beat, 7 April 2011
I could remember sitting in the lounge with my dad and
watching "Gideon's Way" - with it's familiar "whistling"
theme and painting a picture of the bobby on the beat -
you know, back in the days when parents always said "if
you get lost ask a policeman".
Watching the episodes over 45 years later, they have not
let me down - and my husband thinks the series is fantastic.
I have only seen a few so far but the standard is constantly
high. John Gregson stars as Gideon, the down to earth copper
and Alexander Davion is Det. Chief Insp. Keene, a young police
man full of new ideas. They weren't just "by the numbers"
police shows but attempted to deal with psychological issues
as well ie "The Tin God" was about a child, who refused to
believe his father, a desperate escapee, was anything but a
hero, hence the title.
As well, there were many parts played by actors, just starting
out, who became huge stars - John Hurt, George Cole and Donald
Sutherland. Really, really recommended.

Page: 1 | 2