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Peter D

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Dominion
Dominion
by C. J. Sansom
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.19

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gripping story... but very badly written, 1 Sep 2013
This review is from: Dominion (Paperback)
A counterfactual historical novel, in which Britain made peace with the Nazis in 1940 and now, in 1952, is part of a German- dominated Europe. Muncaster, a scientist, holds a vital atomic secret and must be spirited from the country by the resistance, pursued by ruthless SS officer Gunther Hoth and escape impeded by the great London Smog of 1952. This was a gripping story, but it was SO badly written. And the editors and proof readers, who presumably had a chance of redeeming the bad writing and the dreadful, mistake- ridden typesetting, should be taken out and shot. One example of the bad writing: Almost every time a character is introduced, an exchange of some sort takes place and then, after a couple of paragraphs, the new character says, 'I'm Bert by the way' (or Terry or Jane or whatever). Do people really talk like this, especially when the SS is in hot pursuit? And there's something about counterfactual history involving WW2 and British occupation/ subservience that makes me uneasy. I think of Deighton's 'SS-GB', read in between puking my guts up in a Paris hotel room in 1984 on a failed weekend away. That was very clumsily written, too, if I remember rightly. Reading 'Dominion', I was in similar circumstances of illness, so maybe it's those circumstances rather than the novels themselves that make me uneasy. And I did enjoy 'Fatherland', where Robert Harris wisely focuses on Germany, and Britain, by its absence in the narrative as I recall it, is irrelevant.


The Man Who Went Up In Smoke (A Martin Beck)
The Man Who Went Up In Smoke (A Martin Beck)
by Maj Sjowall
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Sparse writing and an edge of social commentary, 26 Aug 2013
The second in the Martin Beck series. Beck travels to Budapest (this was written in the 1960s, so Hungary was then firmly behind the Iron Curtain) to investigate the sudden, inexplicable disappearance of Swedish journalist Alf Matsson. The detective becomes involved in Hungarian police bureaucracy- and crime- but the truth behind Matsson's vanishing does not lie in Budapest. Sparsely written, sometimes comic and with a social commentary edge to it, after taking years to get to reading this series, I am so far really enjoying it.


A Sport and a Pastime
A Sport and a Pastime
by James Salter
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Short, Memorable and Clever, 18 Aug 2013
This review is from: A Sport and a Pastime (Paperback)
This is a short, memorable and clever story of a love affair in 1960s France between an American college drop- out, Philip Dean, and a young French shop girl, Anne- Marie Costallot. It's memorable because of the descriptions of provincial France; wide skies, mist, rain- filled towns. (Last year I spent a few months working in Rennes and I thought often of here when I was reading.) It's clever because the narration is compelling, but you are never entirely sure who is narrating the story and why. I suspect that I will be thinking about this novel for quite a while.


The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite
The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite
by Beatrice Colin
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.39

4.0 out of 5 stars Fast- moving and engaging story, 11 Aug 2013
Lily Aphrodite, whose first breath is taken in the first minute of the 20th century, shortly afterwards becomes an orphan (mother shot by her father who discovers her in bed with a philosophy student; philosophy student then shoots her father). From orphanage to tingle- tangle bar girl to film star, Lily's momentous life is led against the even more momentous events of Germany and Berlin in the first decades of the last century; war, revolution, political extremism and the rise of Hitler. This is a fast- moving and engaging story, occasionally bumpily written and veering towards cliche, but mostly entertaining and enjoyable.


Out Stealing Horses
Out Stealing Horses
by Per Petterson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loneliness, fate and the choices we make, 30 July 2013
This review is from: Out Stealing Horses (Paperback)
An elderly man living alone in an isolated house somewhere in Eastern Norway remembers the summer more than 50 years previously when his best friend's carelessness led to an accidental killing, and his father left home for good. These reminiscences mingle with accounts of the man's day- to- day life now; lighting the stove, walking the dog, chopping wood, waking uneasily to the silence of the middle of the night. Little happens in this book, but a great deal is said about loneliness, fate and the choices we make in life.


The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance
The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance
by Edmund de Waal
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chronicle of two troubled and tragic centuries, 18 July 2013
This story of the rise and decline of a wealthy Mitteleuropa Jewish family in the 19th and 20th centuries is built around around the collection of netsuke (tiny Japanese wood and ivory carvings) acquired by Charles Ephrussi, one of the family's scions. Both the history of the family itself, and the survival of the netsuke through it, are wonderfully conveyed. The book manages somehow magically to turn into a vast chronice of two centuries that are by turns hopelessly optimistic, deeply tragic and unbelievably savage. This is a perfect case of the smallest things mirroring the largest happenings. Definitely worth reading.


Casino Royale: James Bond 007 (Vintage Classics)
Casino Royale: James Bond 007 (Vintage Classics)
by Ian Fleming
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

3.0 out of 5 stars The start of a James Bond reading project...., 8 July 2013
A while ago I acquired a boxed set of most of the James Bond novels, reissued as Penguin Modern Classics (and of course they are classics, I guess) and have now decided as a summer- ish project to work my way through them in chronological order.'Casino Royal' (originally published in 1953) is the first. You have to take this for what it is; a slightly risque (for the time) thriller of the 1950s, with undertones of racism, sexism, sado- masochism and a doubtful political ideology. Even so, at times there is something quite sparely poetic about the writing. For example, writing about the Auberge du Fruit Defendu, where double agent Vesper Lynd finally meets her ignominious end: 'He thought.... that the inn must be very lonely in winter- time with the big seas and the noise of the wind in the pines....'


Between the Woods and the Water: On Foot to Constantinople from the Hook of Holland - The Middle Danube to the Iron Gates
Between the Woods and the Water: On Foot to Constantinople from the Hook of Holland - The Middle Danube to the Iron Gates
Price: 6.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Sequel to 'A Time of Gifts', 4 July 2013
Having finally read 'A Time of Gifts' a few books back, I started on 'Between the Woods and the Water', the second of Leigh Fermor's books recounting his journey on foot in the early 1930s from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. Now he is travelling acros the Great Hungarian Plain, into Romania and Transylvania and ending (for this book) at the Iron Gates of the Danube, where the East finally and properly takes over from the West. For quite a lot of the book, L-F does a fair bit of lolling around in faded country houses with minor aristocracy, but even this is interesting for its representation of a vanished, pre- WW2 way of life. And the gradual transition from Mitteleuropa to even more exotic Eastern lands, where the Ottoman Empire held sway for centuries, is really well handled.


Dotter of Her Father's Eyes
Dotter of Her Father's Eyes
by Mary Talbot
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.49

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No change in my scepticism about graphic books, 28 Jun 2013
I am not at all sure about graphic novels- let alone graphic memoirs. Having everything laid in front of you- images and words- seems to me somehow to lessen the imaginative experience of reading. But this won the Costa Biography Award, so I thought that I would give it a go. Unfortunately, it didn't really change my scepticism about graphic books. Nicely illustrated, but the story, at least in this format, seeems slight; young Northern girl with a neglectful father who happens to be a Joycean scholar, and young neglected girl whose father happens to be James Joyce. I am pretty certain the whole thing would have been much more powerful if the format had been words, just words....


Mr Darwin's Gardener
Mr Darwin's Gardener
by Kristina Carlson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.40

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An odd, beautiful and poetic meditation, 21 Jun 2013
This review is from: Mr Darwin's Gardener (Paperback)
Thomas Davies tends the garden of Charles Darwin in the village of Downe, Kent. As the 19th century grapples with Darwin's revolutionary ideas, villagers in this tiny place lead their lives in the shadow of momentous change. Thomas Davies cares for his two strange children and waits for spring to come and vegetable planting, under the watchful eye (or not) of the God the world is coming to doubt. An odd, beautiful and poetic meditation on life, relationships and beliefs. You need to read this book slowly and steep yourself in the place and the people that Kristina Carlson constructs so carefully.


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