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Roger Risborough (Richmond)

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The Greengage Summer
The Greengage Summer
Price: £2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Forbidden Fruit, 30 Mar. 2015
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This is a charming rites of passage tale that is very much in the spirit of The Go Between (and hence Atonement) and The Railway Children. I'm surprised I'd never come across it before (nor the film that it was made into starring Kenneth Moore, Susannah York and Jane Asher) but as in L. P. Hartley's Edwardian tale, this is essentially a story about adults using children for their own ends, and exposing all the frailties of being "grown-ups" in the process, against an idyllic backdrop of summer and countryside. Here, our narrator is Cecil, the second of five children cast adrift in a Champagne hotel by their mother's hospitalisation. Strangely in the film, Cecil's role has been edited out altogether (I suppose the film tells its own story rather than requiring a narrator?), but in the book she is our eyes and ears as the Grey family become intoxicated by their Greengage Summer and get their first tastes of various forbidden fruits. This intoxication is inevitably followed by drunkenness and severe hang-over, as the adults in the story ripen and then rot in the eyes of the children.


Late Fragments: Everything I Want to Tell You (About This Magnificent Life)
Late Fragments: Everything I Want to Tell You (About This Magnificent Life)
Price: £7.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Magnificent Book . . ., 19 Mar. 2015
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The title, "Late Fragments", is a reference to Raymond Carver's poem "Late Fragment" ("And did you get what
you wanted from this life . . . ?"), but there is nothing remotely fragmentary about Kate Gross's wonderful book. It is a series of sharp, precise, cohesive essays about different aspects of the author's life (friendship; childhood memories; the family unit; her work; her husband; etc) and her imminent death (how the shock-waves of one's grief affect others; what happens afterwards) as she deals with cancer. For any writer, the clarity of thought and expression here would be exceptional, but for one enduring chemotherapy and other drugs (as well as the horror of the diagnosis/prognosis), it is truly remarkable - every word rings true, every sentence makes you want to write it down, and every chapter stops you in your tracks with agreement, realisation, tears and joy. Her description of the "Spiral of Grief" distils something I've often thought about, but would never have been able to put into words (or pictures), as she manages.
Carver's poem continues with:
"And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth."
Kate Gross was clearly beloved on earth, and thanks to her magnificent book, we can all join in with that love.


A Pleasure and a Calling
A Pleasure and a Calling
Price: £5.89

3.0 out of 5 stars Gazumped, 16 Mar. 2015
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William Heming is an unlikely hero. Firstly he's an estate agent, secondly he has a penchant for voyeurism and being an uninvited "hider-in-the-house", but most disturbingly, many of those he comes into contact with tend to die. So why a "hero"? Well maybe it's the first person narrative structure (for the chapters in the present, anyway) that draws you into his confidence, or maybe it's the fact that he seems to do good things for bad reasons, but it's hard not to end up rooting for this creepy key-collector, as impending doom closes in on him. Do his crimes pay-off, or does his sale fall through? I won't spoil the end, but for me, after an exciting build-up, come the completion date I couldn't help feeling like I'd been gazumped.


More Fool Me
More Fool Me
Price: £4.56

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Fool Them, 26 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: More Fool Me (Kindle Edition)
And to think I almost didn't buy this, based on the huge number of indifferent or down-right negative reviews on Amazon.
I have previously listened to and loved the first two installments of Stephen Fry's autobiography (you just HAVE to listen to Stephen telling his own story rather than reading it yourself) and this is truly another great installment. Other reviewers have heavily criticised each of the three distinct sections of this book - firstly a summary of the first two books; to me this was great, and it was fascinating to hear the author musing on his earlier musings. Secondly, tales from his London life in the late 80s and early 90s, and the first trappings of success and coked-up-celebrity. Again, for me, brilliant - anecdotes about Kenneth Brannagh, John Mills, Frank Sinatra and numerous others are fascinating, funny and moving, And the last section, direct diary extracts from August to November 1993 when Stephen was writing what turned out to be The Hippopotamus, are a wonderful insight into how someone actually writes a book whilst spinning the conflicting plates of working hard and playing harder. I don't understand why people criticise the diary extracts when I could happily listen to Stephen Fry reading his diary about any day of the week, on any day of the week. Those that just didn't get it, More Fool Them. I can't wait for Stephen Fry Part Four, in whatever form it takes.


Moonraker: James Bond 007
Moonraker: James Bond 007
Price: £5.49

4.0 out of 5 stars From Dover With Love, 16 Feb. 2015
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Like another recent reviewer, I read this following Stephen Fry's recommendation of it in his latest autobiography. And he's right. Moonraker is a gem of a book that I'd somehow missed (along with the film). Fleming brilliantly captures post-war/Cold-War London in this early Bond novel that is distinctive for being wholly set in London and Kent, and one that couldn't be simpler and sparer in its set-up and climax. When they made the film, they ditched this contained Englishness and went (I now understand) for something ludicrous involving space, volcanoes and Roger Moore, completely missing the essence of the book. Hugo Drax is a vividly drawn Bond villain and again the film-makers lost the plot completely when casting him (as well as Bond). In the book, we get the definitive James Bond - excelling at the card table, flaunting his connoisseurship of exotic alcoholic drinks and canapes, chasing the girl, and of course, saving London (if not the World). I'd love to see Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig have a go at this one.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 2, 2015 6:28 PM GMT


Spend Game (Lovejoy 4)
Spend Game (Lovejoy 4)
Price: £4.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The (Love)Joy of Essex, 10 Feb. 2015
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Lovejoy is the original Essex Man . . . a ducker, a diver, and a divvie . . . that means someone with the magical gift of being able to divine the presence of true antiques. That's a great basis for a series of hero-in-peril novels in the Dick Francis mould. This is the fourth in the Lovejoy series - I've read a few previously and hearing that the TV series is to be reborn with more emphasis on the original source material, I thought I'd try another of the books. This is an enjoyable romp with all the same positives and negatives from previous readings. The positives are Lovejoy himself; the Essex-estuary setting (little villages full of big characters, boozy pubs, antiques shops and dealers) but more than anything, the little nuggets of antiques history and information (different in every book but here including locks, railway memorabilia and "treen") that stud the whole story. The negatives? Well this was written in a hurry in the pre-laptop era and could have done with a lot more crafting - many of the descriptions of action and situation may have made sense in the author's head, but they often don't to the reader. The biggest minus, though, is the apparent need for these stories to climax with some improbable maelstrom of danger, fisticuffs, blood, sweat and tears. That's a shame, because that approach detracts from a lot of the earlier cosy antiquey stuff. These are novels of two halves - great beginnings, but with boringly predictable, physical endings. So overall, lots to enjoy, less to love.


The Joy of Essex: Travels Through God's Own County
The Joy of Essex: Travels Through God's Own County
Price: £4.79

3.0 out of 5 stars Phoney Maconie, 3 Feb. 2015
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Pete May sets-out on a tour of Essex to convince us that the stereotypical view of that much-maligned county based on TOWIE and before that, press favourites Essex Man and White Van Man, is not the whole story. But although he is from Essex himself, and admits that Essex Man’s world is based on wheels, wonga and women, he is in fact one of life’s pedestrians. So this is not a whistle-stop, wheel-spinning, hand-braking-turning, boy-racer-rally round the highways and byways, it is instead a series of middle-aged day trips by bus and train. This gives the author plenty of time to stand and stare, but the end result, I’m afraid, is rather, er, pedestrian as we plod from town to town, chapter-by-chapter, punning-chapter-title by punning-chapter-title. And given that he sets out to eschew the TOWIE factor, by his own admission he just can’t resist the lure of “Estuary Essex” (TOWIE’s homeland) as opposed to middle-England-Essex on the other side of the A13. This means that his assessment of every town he visits is based on comparing numbers of nail bars and beauty salons, and his attempts at Vox-Popping the residents don’t go any further than asking them about sightings of TOWIE stars. I also couldn’t help worrying about the author’s health, because he celebrates his arrival in each new chapter with a big helping of fish-and-chips, a full fry-up breakfast or ice cream, and frequently all three. He only gets a bit health-conscious in the company of Porky The Poet (Phill Jupitus) and absent-mindedly orders an omelette.
In mocking Essex’s mock-Tudor aspirations and bling-merchants, May comes over as a bit of a Mock-Stuart-Maconie, but with half the charm and none of the wit. You get the impression he really enjoyed his own journey going back to his roots, but it’s hard for the reader to say the same.


How Did All This Happen?
How Did All This Happen?
by John Bishop
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £16.58

5.0 out of 5 stars Not Bashing THe Bishop, 31 Jan. 2015
A really likeable guy reading his own very likeable story.
What's not to like?


Cheltenham et AL: The Best of Alastair Down
Cheltenham et AL: The Best of Alastair Down
by Alastair Down
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.60

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Down Memory Lane, 25 Jan. 2015
Alastair Down is brilliant at putting into words what we are all thinking but can't articulate ourselves.
And often, we only realise we were thinking it, after he's put it into words. That is a great skill, and one that outsiders could say is wasted in the narrow world of horse-racing, evidenced by his articles on 9/11 and the Queen's visit to Ireland. But I think it was Brough Scott who once said that "racing may be narrow, but boy, is it deep", and Alastair Down's articles over the years take us deep into our memories and deep into our emotions (laughter and tears in equal measures). Racing tends to make us focus too much on the here-and-now - what's going to win today? how can I make some money in this race? but Alastair Down's writing takes us on a glorious gallop back in time, straight down memory lane to the there-and-then, when Corinthian values and colourful characters were the order of the day . There can be no greater tribute to any journalist than for the very people he writes about for his daily bread to end up wanting him to write their funeral eulogies and obituaries, but that is where this writer really comes into his own - commemorating Terry Biddlecombe, Henry Cecil, Best Mate and all the other greats who are now gone but far from forgotten. This whole book is an extended elegy to late Twentieth Century horse-racing, an age that has already all but slipped away from us, but one that couldn't have been chronicled and immortalised by a more loving scribe.


F: A Novel
F: A Novel
Price: £4.27

3.0 out of 5 stars F is for Fake . . . F is for Fate . . . F is for Faith . . ., 25 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: F: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
From the various options available for what F may stand for (in English, if not the German original manuscript), you can take your pick really, because this is a novel with plenty of gaps between the dots allowing you to create your own meanings even where they may not have been intended by the author.
F is for fake . . .
- Lindemann is not really a hypnotist . . .
- Arthur is not really a writer . . .
- Martin is not really a "believer" . . .
- Eric is not really a financial wizard . . .
- Ivor really is a painter but pretends not to be . . .
F is for fate . . .
- We are all the result of chance . . .
- We have no control over our past . . .
- We have no control over our future . . .
F is for faith . . .
- Have faith that the author has something deep and meaningful to say about life, then it will be so.


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