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BHA till I die (England)

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Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth
Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth
by Gitta Sereny
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Germany on trial, 1 Dec. 2011
Our obsession with the Third Reich I believe is down to two things. People want to know what it was like to live in such a society, and also to understand how basically decent people could commit, or at the very least live with, such evil. Gitta Sereny's stunning book comes closer than anything I have read, to giving, if not complete answers, then at least a real understanding.

This is not just a biography of Albert Speer and his relationship with Hitler, it's a detailed, almost forensic examination of the German people during the Nazi period. The detail and depth of her research is superb, and while during some interviews with Speer she acts as chief prosecutor (as any journalist should) she is on the whole scrupulously fair in her reporting and analysis.

Almost more illuminating than her examination of Speer, are the many interviews she has with people lower down the food chain in the Third Reich, for example the secretaries at the ministry, work associates of Speer throughout his career, and even the children of prominent Nazis.

When I put this book down, I felt I had been through a court case, with the German people as the defendents. My verdict is guilty, but Gitta Sereny has not only given me a completely new level of understanding, and a belief it could have happened anywhere, but also sympathy for a nation naively led into oblivion.


A Week in December
A Week in December
by Sebastian Faulks
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Did this guy really write Birdsong?, 7 Oct. 2011
This review is from: A Week in December (Paperback)
This book is I'm afraid very poor, and the blurb on the back about state of the nation satire, comparing it to Dickens and Trollope, is laughable.

At the start we get a list of 30 odd characters, and I do mean a list. The book then plods through each of them, some in a couple of pages, some in a couple of chapters until they all meet up at the end for a dinner party, where nothing happens, and then the book ends. I'm afraid this description makes the book sound more exciting to read than it was! I actually felt a small rush of joy, mixed with relief, when I finished it last night.

The characters are weak stereotypes, and the sledgehammer subtle satire picks on the weakest and most obvious of targets (hedge fund managers, reality TV, internet gaming etc) Most annoying are the detailed descriptions of various dodgy financial transactions which are desperately dull and add nothing, apart from show the author did his research!


Ordinary Thunderstorms
Ordinary Thunderstorms
by William Boyd
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent thriller, 5 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Ordinary Thunderstorms (Paperback)
After the first few pages I was thinking, this is a thriller and I don't do thrillers, however well they're written. By the end of the first chapter I was also thinking the plot was a bit far fetched (would he really run rather than go to the police, and is it that easy to fell an ex SAS killer with one swing of a briefcase?) Another 20 pages and I found myself hooked, completely engrossed in the murky London in which this novel is set.

Yes it's a thriller, with a wonderful set of characters coming together in an intricate plot, but its real strength is the London it depicts. I would go as far as to say this is a great London novel.

Adam is drawn into the world of the down and out, and this book shows how easy it is to disappear from the modern world if you refuse to be a part of it. His new life is so well drawn you find yourself constantly asking if you could survive the life that he was forced to adopt.

This book not only tells a cracking story it also asks big questions about identity and what really matters in life, all set within a vividly drawn London that most of us only skate the surface of.


Men from the Boys
Men from the Boys
by Tony Parsons
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very poor, 26 Sept. 2011
This review is from: Men from the Boys (Paperback)
Towards the end of this book, the main character, Harry, says that TV production used to be his passion and labour of love, but it was now just a job "like my father used to do" I'm afraid I think the same could be said of Tony Parson's writing.

Tony Parsons had a story to tell with "Man and Boy" and while no literary giant, he could string a sentence together and touched the hearts of many, myself included. His first book was a warm, affectionate, and well observed story of the love between father and son, however the second and especially this, the third in the trilogy, feel like they have come off a rather poor production line.

The characters here are unbelievable and two dimensional, just compare the touching treatment of his son Pat in the first book, with the way Joni his daughter is dealt with in the third. The main character Harry, has now transformed from a flawed but loveable father we identify with, into an unrealistic, selfish and irresponsible fool.

It's the totally unbelievable plot however that makes this book so annoying. We are expected to believe that within a week of Harry meeting a disagreeable old man they are virtually living together, and then 15 year old Pat decides to stand vigil by the old mans hospital bed for two weeks. Just to cap it off, the old man then gives Pat a priceless VC medal while his own son, who is taking him to Australia, stands by and watches!

Sometimes it's small details which annoy the most, and that's the case here. Harry is keen on military history and has read all the books on the Italian campaign, which is understandable given his father's involvement. It is strange then, that he is not aware of this old mans VC winning performance at Monte Cassino, it's even more surprising it's not mentioned in the detailed history of the battle that we are told Harry is reading, and finally it's beyond belief that Harry only decides to google the old man's VC story after he has left for Australia!

They say everyone has a book in them, and while Mr Parsons clearly has more than that, he's probably only got one decent one.


Death or Victory: The Battle for Quebec and the Birth of Empire
Death or Victory: The Battle for Quebec and the Birth of Empire
by Dan Snow
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great book but slightly disappoints at the end., 12 Sept. 2011
I enjoyed this book a great deal, and it covers a key conflict in British history that has been relatively neglected, especially considering it was such a pivotal moment (something Dan Snow makes very clear)

This is a book where Washington and James Cook get only minor walk on parts, but all the key protagonists are covered in detail, as is the build up towards the final battle. The book is an excellent read, helped by the fact Snow goes into background detail when appropriate, but never for so long that the flow of the story is interrupted.

My only minor criticism is the rather cursory way the following winter and next years conflict is described. Murray was left in command to suffer a terrible winter and then emerge victorious the following year. Snow takes about as many pages describing these events as he does describing army uniforms. I assume he felt it needed another book to do it justice, but I was left feeling I didn't quite have the full story.


Sunset Park
Sunset Park
by Paul Auster
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Auster disappoints....again, 18 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Sunset Park (Paperback)
The talent is clear and the prose still beautiful, but this novel left me completely cold. The characters are not allowed to develop, the main character has no emotional pull, and the story line is almost non existent. It's rather like he put a lot of characters on a bus, but then couldn't decide where to take them!

I loved Auster's early novels (New York trilogy, Brooklyn Follies and my personal favourite Moon Palace) He was one of the very few authors where I purchased the hardback on release, both this and his previous novel "Invisible" have not justified that level of enthusiasm.


My Father's Tears and Other Stories
My Father's Tears and Other Stories
by John Updike
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Poignant sign off, 17 July 2011
This is a charming, tender, and very apposite sign off from America's greatest author.

While not hitting the heights of his great novels, these poignant musings on mortality are wonderful, and the 9/11 story is classic Updike.


Moral Combat: A History of World War II
Moral Combat: A History of World War II
by Michael Burleigh
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A genuinely new perspective, 17 July 2011
I came to this book with low expectations, as I found Burleigh's Third Reich a turgid read, packed with detail but providing no new perspective.

This book could not be more different (I'm frankly staggered they were written by the same author) This is no trudge through the strategy and battlefields, but rather the war viewed through the lens of the moral dilemmas and decisions of it's participants.

He manages to say more about Churchill in a few pages than many have in long winded biographies, and when he decides the subject is worth a detailed analysis the result is fascinating and truly illuminating (for example the Lodz ghetto)

He achieves a genuine new perspective by examining the issues and decisions from axis and allies alike, but very consciously avoids the trap of even hinting at any kind of moral equivalence between the two.

The best WW2 book since Armageddon.


Man and Boy
Man and Boy
by Tony Parsons
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Charming but flawed, 17 July 2011
This review is from: Man and Boy (Paperback)
This book is charming, if slightly lacking, and to describe it as "chick lit for men" would be unfair but not entirely inaccurate.

Basically Harry is your typical bloke, who marries, has a child and a satisfying job, before a one night stand changes his life and forces him to become a modern day man.

Harry is grappling with the meaning of love. He is very clear on the unconditional love of a parent for his child, and the relationships Harry has with his son, and especially his father are truly touching, and clearly the strong point of the book.

He is also an incurable romantic, and his girlfriend accuses him of always looking for romantic love but incapable of "real love" Harry spends the book struggling with these definitions, and despite a far too neat ending, he never really resolves it.... and nor does the book.


The Making of Modern Britain: From Queen Victoria to V.E. Day: 1
The Making of Modern Britain: From Queen Victoria to V.E. Day: 1
by Andrew Marr
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Make this just one volume of many, 14 Feb. 2011
I think authors read their reviews on here (well I would - wouldn't you?) So Andrew, please quit weakly challenging second rate politicians on a Sunday morning, and produce volumes of history like this - one for every 50 years back to say 1650. That will give us a 7 volume popular history of Britain (or 8 volumes if you look after yourself and squeeze in a 21st century one) that will be treasured for generations to come.

It would easy to be a bit snobby about the lack of depth, or the glossing over of so many key issues, but the fact is Marr pulls off the trick of writing short and fascinating vignettes, which also give you a genuine feel and "smell" for the era. You know what Edwardian Britain was like far more from the chapters here than from dense volumes of detailed analysis. Yes occassionaly the style does appear superficial and uninformative (the Governor of England / gold standard chapter springs to mind) but there are so many wonderful chapters that it is easy to forgive.

David Mitchell's character in the Peep show says something along the lines of "I was trying to read this book to get to sleep but Andrew Marr is just so damn readable" - couldn't put it better.


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